Dr Andy Wee answered a teen Straits Times reader’s question on the pain he experienced when running. He would always get an aching cramp in both legs and the calves after running for more than 15 minutes. This pain would go off after a short rest but comes back on when he resumes running. He is concern if the problem stems from his slightly bowed knees and wants to address the limits in his running ability.
Dr Wee believes the pain is likely caused by chronic exertional compartment syndrome. Chronic exertional compartment syndrome refers to the pressure build-up in the muscle compartments between the knee and ankle joint from increased muscle exertion. This abnormal pressure build-up affects blood circulation and oxygen supply to the muscles, giving rise to cramps in the legs after a period of exertion.
He advises the teen to gradually increase his running mileage and intensity to give time for his muscles to slowly get adapted to the increased compartment pressure. Some stretching exercise before running would also help to minimise pain and improve running mileage. If all these measures do not improve his condition, he should consult an orthopaedic surgeon for help.
The slightly bowed knees of the teen is not of any significant concern unless there is any knee pain. The condition, known as primary genu varus, usually does not need any treatment if the deformity is not too severe.