Sunday, September 23, 2018

Popping Vitamins Or Other Dietary Supplements?

I often get patients asking me if there's something they can take to recover faster (from their injury). Most of them seem to be taking some form vitamins or other dietary supplements already.

Have a look the next time you walk into a Guardian or Unity Pharmacy here. You’ll see lots of vitamins and supplements there for sale. Not to mention the few sales assistants who will tell you what you need to be taking.

In fact, earlier in April this year, The New York Times published an article on how older Americans are hooked on vitamins.

Do we really need to be taking any extra vitamins and supplements. I've written before why there is no evidence for taking glucosamine. If you're interested you can read more here.

This may seem as a shock for those of you who are already taking vitamins or any sort of dietary supplements. Many supposedly muscle building supplements make unproven claims and may even come with side effects.

In the journal article referenced below (Gliemann et al 2013), researchers found that resveratrol (an antioxidant found in red wine) actually limited the positive effects of cardiovascular exercise. It affects your VO2 max when taken daily in high concentrations.

Those of you who take fish oil supplements beware. There is evidence that men with high levels of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in their blood (from the fish oil supplements) are at a higher risk of getting prostate cancer.

In fact, well known researcher Professor Pieter Cohen (who was sued by a supplement maker but Cohen won) said there are only two types of supplements. Those that are safe but don't work. And those that might work but have side effects, especially at higher than normal levels.

Most vitamins are in the first category. Taking a multivitamin daily will not harm you, but it usually won't help too much either. This is why major health organizations don't recommend supplements to healthy people.

Now don't get me wrong here, If you don't have enough Vitamin C, you can get scurvy. Without iron, you can become anemic. And if you don't get enough sunlight, you may need some Vitamin D. However, all three of the above can have negative effects at high doses. Same for Vitamin E and calcium.

Unless blood tests show that you're super deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral, there is no evidence that you should be popping those pills. Even so, it's better to be getting them from real food sources.

If you're an athlete, and you're taking anti-oxidants to boost recovery take note of what Dr Mari Carmen Gomez-Cabrera (who is a world leading researcher on anti-oxidants) published. The antioxidant pills that you pop suppresses the oxidative stress that signals to your body to adapt and get stronger. Meaning regular use of something seemingly mild and innocent like Vitamin C can actually block gains that you've trained so hard to get in your endurance boosting mitochondria (cells).

Dr Gomez-Cabrera suggests eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily and you won't need to pop vitamin or other pills.

To put it bluntly, are vitamins and other dietary supplements just plain useless or worse than useless. Of course you can still buy them and take them if you wish. You're just lining the pockets of those of manufacture and sell them.


Cohen P, Travis JC et al (2014). A Synthetic Stimulant Never Tetsed in Humans, 1,3- Dimethybutylamine (DBMA), Is Identified In Multiple Dietary Supplements.  7(1): 83-87. DOI: 10.1002/dta.1735.

Gliemann L, Friss J et al (2013). Resveratrol Blunts The Positive Effects Of Exercise Training On Cardiovascular Health In Aged Men. 591(20): 5047-5059. DOI: 10.1113/physiol.2013.258061.

Gomez-Cabrera MC, Domenech E et al (2008). Oral Administration Of Vitamin C decreases Muscle Mitochondria Biogenesis And Hampers Training-Induced Adaptations In Endurance Performance. Am J Clin Nutr. 87(1): 142-149. DOI: 10.1093/acjn/87.1.142.

PS -After I wrote the article, another patient who runs frequently asked about taking magnesium for muscle cramps. Read the article I wrote on what causes muscle cramps and save your money.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mid Life Crisis In The Older Athlete?

Singapore National Games 2012 by RS from Flickr
I had a patient who recently turned 50 years young and decided that she would like to finish running a marathon. She had never ran much before (unless you count physical education classes in school) and she would consider herself pretty much inactive previously. She started training with a local running group, and within 6 weeks of training got injured and ended up seeing me in our clinic.

Here's a trend I've been noticing, a fair bit of participants in local races are above the ages of 40. I just looked up the results of the 2017 Singapore Triathlon and the 2018 Singapore OCBC National Road Race Cycling championships. The 40-49 age group has the largest number of participants and among the most competitive. I didn't look up the statistics, but with the number of participants we've treated in our clinic, I'm sure this is similar for the Spartan races too.

If you look up the 2018 Boston marathon results in April this year and last year's New York marathon the statistics are similar.

Research backs this up too. A research paper by Hoffman and Fogard (2012) found that the average age of participants in a 100 mile trail race was 44 years.

My 50 year old patient calls this urge to run her her first marathon her "mid-life crisis". I looked up "mid-life crisis". This concept was first presented in 1957 by Canadian psychologist Elliot Jacques to the British Psychoanalytical Society and later published as "Death and the Mid-life Crisis" in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis in 1965.

His theory was that as we approach middle age, we begin to realize our own mortality (or death) and we begin to freak out. As we grow older, we start to focus on how much time has passed, how much is left and what to do with whatever time is left. That can create anxiety and that anxiety can be multiplied by anxiety, depression and stress.

My 50 year old female patient says that unlike what you usually read or see in movies (where the older white guy buys a sports car and dates a younger girl in a desperate bid to feel young again), her "mid-life crisis" is to take on physical challenges.

Her goal is not to cling on to whatever is left of her "youth" or be young again. It is more about building up for the years ahead. Sounds like a good mid-life crisis to me.

Whether you are a young and older athlete, and starting a new game or beginning to exercise, pace yourself and start gently. There are big benefits from minimal running. However, if you do get injured, come and see us in our clinics.


Hoffman MD and Fogard K (2012). Demographic Characteristics Of 161-km Ultramarathon Runners. Research in Sp Med. 20(1): 59-69. DOI: 10.1080/15438627.2012.634707.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Heat Acclimatization Can help Exercise Performance

Other than the heavy rain the last two days, it's been very hot recently. I used to love training and racing in the heat. Living in sunny and super humid Singapore meant that we're used to such conditions.

I'll often train in the hottest part of the day so that when race day came, whatever sweltering conditions encountered (on race morning) will seem like a breeze. There was a year (2001) when the Osim Singapore Triathlon was held in Sentosa and it was 38 degrees Celsius on race day and I used that advantage to finish 3rd overall behind Dimitry Gagg (former World Triathlon Champion in 1999).
On the podium with Dimitry Gagg in 2001
Turns out I may have been right in getting an edge over my competitors. And you can use that to your advantage too.

Heat is now hot! This shift towards heat training has been trending for the past few years. From running marathons to even climbing mountains, athletes around the world have been trying to get potential performance benefits of heat training.

Many of these heat studies started because of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Many runners were preparing for the sweltering conditions and that lead to a whole lot more research done on heat acclimatization.

There are even studies of using heat therapy to fight heart disease and repair muscles.

Most heat acclimatization protocols help athletes perform better in the heat. This includes lowering core body temperatures, increasing perspiration rates and increasing volume of blood.

And what if after all that training in the heat race day wasn't hot? What if race day turns out to be as cold as the 2018 Boston marathon?

Fret not, results of a study (Lorenzo et al, 2010) on whether being well adapted to heat might affect your performance in cool conditions put that worry to rest. Scientists had cyclists train for ten days in 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 degrees Fahrenheit). Their VO2 max improved by 5 percent while their one-hour time trialing performance improved by 6 percent! This was when they were tested at 12.8 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit). Just in case you were wondering, they improved by 8 percent in hot conditions for both VO2 max and the one hour time-trial.

Control group cyclists had no improvements in V02 max, one-hour time trial performance, lactate threshold and other physiological parameters.

Suddenly, hot rooms, saunas and even non breathable training suits were the latest must haves and even suggested to be a cheaper and more convenient alternative to altitude training.

When it is too hot, it is a shock to our system. This is similar to what happens to our system when we exercise or train in altitude.

When we exercise in altitude, the decrease in oxygen triggers the body to produce more red blood cells. Heat training increases the volume of blood plasma in our bodies and this help send more oxygen to our muscles.

However, it is not totally certain that increasing blood plasma volume may lead to improved athletic performance. What may happen from the resulting dilution of blood is that it may trigger a natural response for the body to produce new red blood cells - just like altitude training.

Training in hot conditions does not only change blood plasma. Other benefits include psychological resilience (or the ability to endure) and altered perception of high temperature. Just like what I intended for by training in the hottest part of the day.

Before you head out and train yourself silly in the heat, make sure you gradually increase your intensity and heat exposure. Drink enough but do not overdrink.


Lorenzo S, Halliwill JR et al (2010). Heat Acclimation Improves Exercise Performance. J App Physiology. 109(4): 1140-1147. DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00495.2010.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Can Your Calf Muscle Cause Your Knee To Hurt?

Now that's some very defined soleus muscles
Really? You must be wondering how and why after looking at the title of this week's post. Well, my last patient today had knee pain caused by her soleus (or calf) muscle. She had recently been doing a lot of step ups in her gym classes and her knee pain started soon after.

Runners' knee or patellofemoral joint pain (pain under the kneecap) is very common in runners. I've written before about how this may be due to heel striking, heavy landing and hip dysfunction.

There is also some evidence where the length of the soleus muscle can influence patellofemoral joint pain (PFP). It has been suggested that in runners with PFP, there is a greater activation in the muscle compared to runners without knee pain (Piva et al, 2005).

See soleus after you cut away gastrocnemius
Your calf muscles consist of the more superficial gastrocnemius muscles and the deeper soleus muscle. If you peel off the gastrocnemius muscles, the soleus muscle lies underneath. Together they end as the Achilles tendon finishing at the heel bone (picture above).

The soleus muscle is largely thought to help with our posture as it is mostly made up of Type I slow twitch muscle fibres. The gastrocnemius muscle is made up of mainly Type II fast twitch fibres.

The fast twitch muscles of the gastrocnemius allows you to sprint. However, the gastrocnemius muscles tire easily.

The slow twitch soleus muscle is very important for your walking and running. Since they're more fatigue resistant, you use them a lot chalking up mileage whenever you run.

One of the main functions of the calf muscles is to absorb shock. If they're overused, they can't absorb shock well, your knee takes more of the load and you get knee pain.

A very simple way to take load off your soleus muscle is to take smaller steps when walking or running. Increasing your step rate, especially while running will ensure you're not over striding and heel striking. This reduces impact loading and lessens your chances of knee pain.


Piva SR, Goodnite EA et al (2005). Strength Around The Hip And Flexibility Of Soft Tissues In Individuals With And Without Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. JOSPT. 35(2): 793-801. DOI: 10.2519/jospt.2005.35.12.793.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Don't Turn Childhood Into A Race

Picture by RS from Flickr
I didn't expect my article on not to force your teenage athletes to be so well received. I received many requests to share the article and comments from readers and patients alike.

And in the clinic, there were patients who asked me about that article. Turns out one of those conversations became the inspiration for this week's post.

One of my patients had been deciding whether or not to go for football practice. Not her or her husband but their two boys. The commitment required though makes it seem like the whole family is involved. Even their helper help to pitch in by making sandwiches and sports drinks (although I thought they were a little young for sports drinks).

The twice weekly practices, requiring a 30 minute drive one way ends quite late on a week day leaving just enough time for dinner and bedtime (but not homework). The Saturday or Sunday practice often conflict with family lunches, birthday parties and family time for just lazing or goofing around at home.

Their boys are only six and eight and I feel they shouldn't be on such a "rigid" supervised program for sports (but that's just my opinion).

I've read from articles in Red Sports and the Straits Times that increasingly for children in Singapore, kids start playing organized team sports younger. They are often encouraged to specialize in a single sport sooner than later. Especially those kids who are hoping to enroll in a school of their choice under the Direct School Admission (DSA) scheme.

This creates pressure for kids to be proficient and exceptional only at one sport. When I was in primary school, I played table tennis, football, basketball, badminton and also competed in the running events during my school sports day and won medals for all of them.

Now, I'm not disputing the fact that sports are very good for kids. When kids take part in sports, it teaches them teamwork, sportsmanship, improves their self esteem while letting them try risk taking (safely). And of course it makes them healthy and strong. Both physically and mentally.

I, for one have seen first hand (while treating these young athletes) that these children/ teenagers who focus too early on a single sport lose interest when the going gets tough. They're often more prone to injury, stress and burnout.They sometimes fail to develop basic movement skills. Just watch a bunch of young elite swimmers (no disrespect intended) play basketball or football.

In today's Straits Times, in an article on why we should not turn childhood into a race for results, the author wrote about how US Olympian Katie Ledecky describe swimming as "really just for her still a hobby". She has by the age of 21 won five Olympic gold medals and a silver, owns six world records and a US$7 million dollar deal with a swimwear company.

She was quoted in a New York Times article saying "I feel lucky that I could enjoy swimming," and "people need to relax ... and take a step back and realize that you don't have to be great at this young age. It's not about immediate results". Ledecky said she recalled she had not raced in events longer than 25 yards (22.9 metres) until she was eight years old.

My observations mirror those of studies published. Kids who wait until their older teenage years to specialize are better all round athletes and more likely to stick with sports and continue to be active throughout their life.

So what's the solution? Try to do everything in moderation. If your child is keen on a single sport, try mixing other activities on their off days. Make sure they have off (or total rest) days.

My own two boys do lots of outdoor free play- climbing, jumping and running around in the playground nearby. Other than football once a week for the older boy (at his request) there are no other art, music or other enrichment activities for both of them.

I suggest that your child should not be involved in more hours of organized sports than their age. Expose them to as many different options as possible while waiting as long as you can to find a sport for them to specialize. Then you can support them as much as possible.

We also value adventure in our family. My wife and I hope that our boys will be competent and enthusiastic outdoors. So we try to make sure they're climbing, hiking, going for nature walks and biking. Travelling and farm stays (which the boys love) will remain an essential time for our family and this keeps us connected and is a welcome change to our over scheduled wired and connected world.

Competitions? Do your best to keep them in perspective. Your goal as a parent is not to raise an Olympic athlete but to raise a nice child that grows into a nicer, well balanced human being who will contribute to society.

ST article 260818

Sunday, August 19, 2018

McConnell Taping Versus Kinesio Taping

Me holding court
Day 2 of the Kinesio Taping Assessments, Fundamental Concepts and Techniques started with me reviewing material we had gone through yesterday.

After that we went straight into material for Day 2 and some of the questions the participants asked was how Mechanical Correction taping from Kinesio Taping would fare against Jenny McConnell's McConnell taping for the knee. Yes, Jenny McConnell's taping technique was first published (and made famous) in the Physiotherapy Journal way back in 1986. I remember reading the article and using the taping technique before.

McConnell's taping (L) vs Kinesio Taping
Here's a close up of what I did for Michelle's knees.
McConnell's on the (L)
No prizes for guessing which came out tops.
Michelle's happy
We had many fruitful clinical discussions on applications for the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), pes anserinus area, the Achilles tendon and of course the plantar fascia.

With the physiotherapy students
The four Physiotherapy students from SIT requested taking a picture with me after the course. Thanks for coming Sara, Mark, Priscilla and Dominic. The pleasure is all mine.

Group picture

A big thank to all for coming, especially to Nada and Faisal from Saudi Arabia, Tim from Loue Bicycles, Nisa and the Physiotherapy students and teachers, hope it was useful for everyone.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

You Two Came All The Way From Saudi Arabia?

Nada from Saudi Arabia
We have 2 overseas participants this time, all the way from Saudi Arabia as Sports Solutions hosted Day 1 of the Kinesio Taping Asessments, Fundamental Concepts and Techniques course today. Thanks to Nicole Montes from Kinesio USA for putting my course details on their website.

Tensegrity model
We began our day with some lessons on anatomy and discussions on how the tape works, the homunculus, the tensegrity model and the Pain Gate Theory amongst others. Yes, I did explain about the how that original 1965 paper by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall may still be very relevant in some ways presently.

After all that talking, it was of course time for the practical.

Where's his head?

Here you go
Stay tuned for Day 2 tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fat Pad Most Painful In The Knee?

I had a patient who came to our clinic recently complaining that his MRI showed that his patella (knee cap) cartilage had "worn out" completely but he didn't have any pain prior to that. He had actually gone to do his MRI under his doctor's insistence for investigating something else.

His  MRI results was like in his words "opening a can of worms" telling him what's wrong with his knees and perhaps that's why he started having pain after that.

After his ranting, I had to explain very thoroughly about the structures in our knees that cause the most pain. The information I gave him was derived from an article published quite a while ago in the American Journal of Sports Medicine but still very relevant today.

The doctors in that study came up with a simple method to document the various sensations felt inside a single subject's knees one week apart. Right knee first, followed by the left a week later. (Note that the subject had no prior knee pain).

They would arthroscopically poke/ palpate (using a specially built spring loaded device) different structures inside the knee while video recording the procedure and record what the subject's response was. Force used was between 0 to 500 grams. All this done without intra articular anesthesia. Ouch! That must really hurt.

The doctors only injected local anesthesia at the portal site (incision). The first author inspected both knees arthroscopically. He asked the patient when he poked at different structures and graded the sensation as follows (0) no sensation; (1) was non painful awareness; (2) slight discomfort; (3) moderate discomfort and (4) severe pain. This was done with with a modifier of either accurate spatial localization (A) or poor spatial localization (B).

Ready for the results? They were exactly the same for both knees. Even though it was done one week apart.

Palpation of the patellar articular cartilage in the three under surfaces (central ridge, medial and lateral facets) resulted in no sensation, or a 0 score, even with a strongest force of 500 grams. Palpation of the odd facets elicited a score of 1B. Asymptomatic grade II or III chondromalacia (wearing out) of the central ridge was identified on both patellas of the subject!

Palpation of the articular cartilage surfaces of the femoral condyles, trochlea, and tibial plateaus at 500 g of force universally produced a sensation of 1B to 2B.

The sensation from the meniscus ranged from 1B on the inner rim of the meniscus to to 3B near the capsular margin.

Sensation from the  cruciate liagaments (Anterior, posterior cruciate ligaments) range from 1-2B in the mid-portion of the ligaments and 3-4B at the insertion sites.

Palpation of the suprapatellar pouch, capsule, and the medial and lateral retinacula produced a score of 3A to 4A (moderate to severe localized pain) at relatively low levels of force (about 100 g).

The most painful structures were the anterior synovium of the knee, the fat pad and the joint capsule - 4A.

The human knee can be very complex, especially our patellofemoral joint (patella and the femur). The three asymnetrical surfaces on the underside of the patella (or knee cap) has to work together with the femur as it accepts, transfers and dissipates loads between the bones.

We know from previous research that various structures in the knee send neurosensory signals (or messages) to the brain. It is theses signals that result in us feeling pain.

Even though my patient's patella cartilage had worn out (just like the subject) there shouldn't be any pain there as articular cartilage doesn't have any nerve supply. No nerve endings means it is unable to detect pain.

Even the ACL and meniscus wasn't really that sensitive to the poking. This observation may provide an explanation for the often poor localization of structural damage that many patients experience with a cruciate ligament or meniscal injury.

Now you know, worn out articular cartilage doesn't cause you pain. The pain you have is likely to come from other structures.


SF Dye, GL Vaupel and CC Dye (1998). Conscious Neurosensory Mapping Of The Internal Structures Of The Human Knee Without Intraarticular Anesthesia. AM J Sp Med. 26(6): 773-777. DOI: 10.1177/03635465980260060601.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

PS Sim - Winner Of The Cameron Ultra-Trail 100 Km Race

Picture from PS Sim
PS kindly agreed to not remain anonymous anymore so I can finally write here that she is the runner who won the Cameron Ultra-Train 100 km race despite having plantar fasciitis (for the past six months at least). She came back to our clinic today to allow me to finish assessing her and treat the cause of her pain.

Actually, after my previous post, I've had questions from some readers already asking me what I did for PS and her plantar fasciitis.

Here's a summary of what I did for those asking. No ultrasound, no ESWT (shock wave) needed, no orthotics and no other gimmicks.

Just plain old accurate body reading and thorough assessment after the body reading pointed to clues around her hips being one of the main reasons to her pain in her plantar fascia. Other contributing factors also suggest that changing shoes and her foot type may have triggered it.

So, of course I started treating her hip first and also taught her what to do to prevent it from recurring. She needs to work at this still for the time being.

 I wrote in my last session with her that I only had time to treat parts of her foot along her Superficial Back Line (SBL) and The Spiral Line.
Superficial Back Line

I did more work on her SBL and also treated fascia along her Superficial Front Line today. After that I had to change her pelvic rotation and suggested she may want to try taping her foot (in case she was planning on starting training again).

Happy to discuss if anyone has questions.
Spiral Line
Congrats to PS once again for a race well won and to Melvin for winning PS.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Patient With Plantar Fasciitis Who Saw Me 3 Days Ago Won 100 km Race

My patient who had been having plantar fasciitis came to see me 3 days ago in the clinic just won the 100  km Cameron Ultra-Trail race.

It was quite a last minute request and I could only fit her in for a 30 minute session during my lunch break (new cases usually have an hour's appointment in our clinic).

Have a look at our WhatsApp exchange.

Not bad for half an hour's work. Now at least I get a full hour to sort it out properly next week. What did I do to treat her? Let me review her case when I next see her and I'll do a follow up post if I find something interesting.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

My Patient Was Told He "Just" Tore His Lateral Meniscus

Maybe it's not so obvious from just the picture above. But when I looked at my patient's legs, they were the first clue I received that perhaps there was something more than meets the eye.

He had gone on a skiing holiday in Whistler in March earlier this year and suffered a fall. After being brought to the physiotherapy clinic on site, they just gave him a knee brace and told him that he tore his lateral meniscus and that it will recover in a month or two. He actually felt fine after a few days of resting and thought he recovered fully after returning to New York where he's studying.

Two months later, when he tried to play tennis once, his right knee "gave way" and he had a very sharp pain for a few seconds. That actually subsided quite quickly too. Similarly on another occasion when he had a kick around game of football with his friends, his knee collapsed again.

He then mentioned that he wasn't confident about running, playing sport with his knee since even it seems to him that he'd recovered.

From what he told me, I immediately suspected he'd tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). Not wanting to "scare" him at first, I didn't say anything to my patient I went through all the ligament and joint testing thoroughly.

After checking his patellofemoral and tibia femoral joints, I did the Lachman's test, Reverse Pivot Shift test and the Anterior Drawer Test for the knee and they were all positive. (I seldom get a positive result for the Anterior Drawer Test but for him there was pain and a big difference in laxity compared to his other leg).

My patient was very shocked when I told him that he'd torn his ACL based on my assessment findings. He wasn't very convinced at first until I explained to him what I found based on his history, the positive orthopedic tests (and the fact that the physiotherapist in Whistler didn't actually examine him). Later he added that no wonder his knee never felt quite right after the skiing trip and now he knew the reason for it.
From my patient
He later went to see his general practitioner doctor and got a referral for a MRI scan and he later messaged me the result as you can see in the picture above.

After some consideration, he decided to do his ACL reconstruction yesterday in Singapore instead doing it elsewhere. Here's the picture he sent me upon discharge from hospital today.
Picture from my patient
It's not the the first time I have a patient who tore his ACL but the previous doctor/ medical practitioner/ physiotherapist they went to first missed it.

Please make sure whoever you see for your knee pain assesses your knee thoroughly.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

They're Not Spitting, It's Carb Rinsing

Helps with penalty taking?
Last couple of days before the end of the Russia 2018 World Cup and if you've been watching the football matches, you've noticed all the rinsing and/or spitting some of the football players do nearing the end of the match. Particularly before the penalty kicks so that their performance won't decline. 
Yes, the players seem to be taking a long swig from the water bottles and then they expel all the contents instead. The players are actually "carb rinsing".

I've written about this "rinse and spit" way back in 2010. It definitely works. Yes, us runners and triathletes have done this for a long time before the footballers caught on. If  you live in Singapore, you'll know that how it feels racing in our super hot and humid climate. Not everyone can handle eating a Power bar or gel and it's worse when you drink too much because you'll end up feeling bloated. And once you feel bloated, it's gonna be real difficult to run fast.

How does it work? It involves "tricking" the brain a little. Exercise physiologists explain that receptors in our mouth send signals to our brain (reward and pleasure areas) suggesting that more energy is on the way so our muscles can push a little harder and there should not be any reason to feel tired.
Ronaldo does it too
Research suggest that carb rinsing works better when the fluids are swished around the mouth for at least five to ten seconds, the longer the better so that more oral receptors come into contact with the carbohydrates in the drink.

Please take note that there needs to be actual carbohydrates in the drink that you use and carb rinsing cannot sustain you for an indefinite period. You still need to eat or drink actual carbohydrates as your body's muscles become depleted of glycogen. 

It seems to work best for intense exercise lasting between 30 mins and and hour so perhaps rinsing your mouth and then actually swallowing some of it for best results if your races are longer.


Currell K, Conway and Jeukendrup AE (2009). Carbohydrate Ingestion Improves Performance Of A New Reliable Test Of Soccer. Int J Sp Nutr Ex Metab. 19(1): 34-46.

Phillips Sm, Sproule J and Turner AP (2011). Carbohydrate Ingestion During Team Games Exercise: Current Knowledge And Areas For Future Investigation. Sports Med. 41: 559-585.

Rollo I, Williams C et al (2008). The Influence Of Carbohydrate Mouth Rinse On Self-selected Speeds During A 30-minute Treadmill Run. Int J Sp Nutr Ex Metab. 18(6): 585-600.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Influence Of Maximalist Running Shoes On Biomechanics

My patient's new running shoes
I had a runner come in to our clinic today. After finishing the Boston marathon in April recently, he had been taking it easy. But since his next race is the New York marathon later on 4th November this year, he started training again just this past week.

After asking the necessary questions regarding his training, I then noticed he was wearing a new pair of maximalist  running shoes. He'd bought it after running Boston as it was a lot cheaper there than in Singapore.

My patient thought that the mega cushioned maximalist shoes would help protect him from the pounding that comes with the running (since he's in excess of 6 feet). 

It was then really fortunate that I'd recently just read an article on the influence of maximalist running shoes on running biomechanics.
Women's NB 880

In that study, researchers had 15 female runners tested by running 5 km on two occasions on a treadmill. Each time, their running biomechanics were analysed before and after running in a pair of "traditional" New Balance (NB) 880 which had a heel height of 35 millimetres and forefoot height of 34 mm versus a Hoka One One Bondi 4 (4l mm heel, 34 mm forefoot height). 
Hoka One One Bondi 4
It is important to note here that the runners were more accustomed to shoes like the NB than the Hokas.

Before reading the article, it seemed logical to me to expect the plush mega cushioned shoes would be more supportive for the tested runners.

However, runners in that study had greater vertical loading rates (the speed at which impact forces affect the body) and peak impact forces (maximum amount of force incurred at one time) in the Hokas than the NB shoes. Meaning, when the runners wore the more cushioned Hokas, the bodies absorbed more of the impact forces of running and in less time. While wearing the regular NB shoes, the impact forces of each step were lower and more evenly spread over time.

The authors noted that even though all the tested runners were assessed to be heel strikers, the higher impact forces while wearing the Hokas cannot be totally attributed to a change in foot strike pattern. In other studies, running in mega cushioned shoes result in runners landing with stiffer knees, resulting in higher impact forces.

Another point to note is that the runners in this study were new to maximalist shoes. I don't know about you, for me, if I get a new shoe to run in (or new tennis racket or any new equipment), my body takes a while to get used to it and run efficiently with it. (Note: even my wife who got a new iPhone X previously took a while before she liked it).

Previously, when minimalist running shoes were more popular caution was advised when trying those shoes. This study suggest such caution if your new running shoes have significantly more cushioning than your previous.

It will be interesting to note what happens to the impact forces when you get used to the maximalist running shoes. The authors of this study are now conducting follow up research on the same runners. The runners are monitored by starting with 20 percent of the weekly mileage in the Hokas, and adding 20 percent the next week and so on.

As I've suggested before, it's probably wiser if you have a few different pair of running shoes so that you can rotate your running shoes to minimize your risk of injury. Now, which runner can resist getting another pair of running shoes to run in?


Pollard CD Ter Har JA et al (2018). Influence Of Maximal Running Shoes On Biomechanics Before And After A 5k Run. Orth J Sp Med. 6(6): 2325967118775720. DOI: 10.1177/2325967118775720.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Popliteus Is The Problem, Not Baker's Cyst

Back of L leg
I had a patient who came to our clinic this past week complaining of pain in the back of her knee. She looked at her symptoms online and thought she had a Baker's cyst. One look at it and I told her not a chance of it being a Baker's cyst.

After examining her knee carefully, I told her it was her popliteus muscle bothering her.

Here's some background information about my patient. She was about 13 months post ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery, back to weight training, running and training two to three times a week for netball.

Now, as far as I remember, every single patient who've undergone an ACL reconstruction I've treated have had a problem with their popliteus muscle at some point or other.

The popliteus muscle is triangular in shape sitting at the back of the knee. It starts on the lateral femoral condyle (posterior, outer part) of the femur (thigh bone) and the lateral meniscus. It then runs down and across the back of the knee joint to finish on the posteromedial (inner) part of the tibial (shin bone).
R popliteus
The muscle limits excessive internal and external tibial rotation. It helps straighten your knee from full extension by rotating the tibial internally. It also "pulls" the lateral meniscus out of the way during knee bending to prevent too much compressive forces from the femur of the tibial so you don't tear your lateral meniscus.

The poplitues muscle is very seldom the main cause of the problem. There is usually a problem with other stabilizing strutcures in that posterior lateral corner of the knee. It is often hurt because of compensating mechanisms related to that. Such has hip rotator weakness that transmits excessive forces towards the knee. Also, hamstring weakness with hip, knee pivoting movements, which are extremely common in netball.

Consider that most ACL reconstructions for patients now are done usually using the hamstring grafts so the hamstring is consistently weaker thus causing the injury/ strain to the popilteus muscle.

Treating the poplitues muscle for my patient was the easy part. I got her pain free at the end of the session. Ensuring the pain does not come back is trickier.

She needed to address the weakness in her hip stabilizers and hamstrings to prevent the problem from coming back. And that will take some effort on her part.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

11th Floss Band Course

What a coincidence. Physio Solutions turned eleven earlier this week and at the end of the same week I'm teaching the 11th Floss Band course. Good things come in pairs I suppose.

My Saturday usually starts with an early bike ride. I'm usually out of the house before six in the morning and get back in time to start work in our clinic by 1030 am. I see patients til 1:30 pm so I have about 30 mins to get ready.

Drenched this morning
Thanks to Danny and Amy who have already set up the chairs, projector etc I hook up my laptop to get my presentation ready before I try to eat and drink a little before I start teaching at 2 pm.

Fortunately, the course got up fine today. Despite my early start, I wasn't too tired and was still able to answer the questions that came my way. We had a mix of trainers, physiotherapy students, massage therapists, cross fitters and a couple of physiotherapists attending today.
3D image of skin, fascia and muscle from my slides
We went through the anatomy and function of fascia, Pain Gate Theory etc so the participants can explain how the Floss Bands work.
Too tight says Si Rui
A big thank you to Danny, Amy and Jane who came later for helping to get the clinic ready for the course and also for helping tidy up after. Please contact them at Sanctband Singapore for the next Floss Band course and if you need to get the Floss bands.

Thank you to the participants who came too. Hope everyone found the course useful.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Don't Force The Teenage Athletes

I read with interest a recent New York Times article about Katelyn Tuohy. A female teenage track phenom with the headline "America's Next Great Running Hope, and One of the Cruelest Twist in Youth Sports."

Although Katelyn had already won titles and set records at sophomore (15-16 years old) level, the article made the point that many previous high school phenoms fail to live up to their early promise because of changes to their physique. The article pointed out that this seems to be a cruel twist in youth sports as girls turn into women.

The article mentioned that it was nearly impossible to predict an elite girl's future success in distance running because the female body changes so much as they continue to grow. Other than a good lung capacity, long distance races require great body weight to strength ratio. The teenage girls are skinny in their early years. Then as they mature and and grow, they may not develop the strength to move their bigger bodies  as quickly.

It's not surprising then that many girls end up with eating disorders, body related issues and end up getting injured. Off the top of my head, I can think of so many teenage athletes I've treated over the years that ended up going down that same path.

Many of the young athletes couldn't understand that it was perfectly normal to have the ups and downs (in their performances) they experience as their bodies change. Girls tend to put on more fat to prepare the body for reproduction. Good if we want to maintain our population, but not good if you're an elite athlete looking to improve your performance.

I had a former classmate PTL in primary school. He won the "Individual Champion" title in our school's track and field meet after winning 100, 200 m and the shot putt (plus the 4 x 100 relay too). That streak started in Primary Four (while he was ten) til Primary 6 (there was no meet from Primary One to Three).

We went to the same Secondary school and he won the 100, 200, 400 m and 110 m hurdles to emerge "Individual Champion" again in Secondary One and Two.

While in Secondary Three (they finally had longer events in track and field), PTL won the first 3 events and finished runners up for the 110 m hurdles event. We shared the "Individual Champion"  title after I won the 1500, 3000 m, 2000 m steeplechase and was 2nd for the 800 m. (Luckily for me, they gave out 2 trophies).

By the time we were in Secondary Four, I won all my four events while PTL didn't win any of his individual events. I ended winning our school's only individual medal at the National School's meet later that year while PTL ran the relays and never competed again after that.

Looking back now I know PTL reached puberty and had his growth spurt earlier than us in Primary school and was physically superior to everyone else. That's how he won all the events earlier. When the rest of us "caught up" hitting puberty later he didn't have that advantage anymore.

Perhaps PTL, having been raised on victories from young, could not comprehend or accept defeat. Early victories may have paved the way for defeat and giving up eventually.

Hence, I will never ever push my kids to excel in sports or something they don't like. I was never pushed when I was a kid. The desire all came from within. However, if they're keen, I will definitely help, support and guide them if I can.

So parents, teachers, coaches and all of you who are involved with young athletes take note of what Kara Goucher said. "Talent never goes away. Once these women/ girls (or boys) adjust to a mature body, the talent can come through again. The obsession with labeling these girls as 'the next big thing' is part of the problem  .... Katelyn is very talented. She will grow and probably slow. But once she adjusts, if she still has the love, the talent will still be there."

Don't push the kids, support, guide and help them if they themselves wish to excel.

Here's a close up of my first Individual Champion trophy. Thanks to my brother who took the pictures for me.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Beach Running Anyone?

I have patients who get impact associated injuries like shin splints or stress fractures all the time. it's probably the most common running injury we see in our clinics along with knee pain.

Other than deep water running which has no impact, I often suggest going to the beach to get them running again.

Have you tried running on the beach? Research shows that running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy expenditure than running on a firm surface. Try it to believe it. Due to the change in technique you require as well as balancing on the sand, the stabilizing muscles in your hips, knees and ankle are working much harder.

Soft sand is particularly difficult while hard or packed sand (near the edge of the water) is definitely easier to run on. It definitely works different muscles (compared to running on the road) and it requires more focus so you don't sprain your ankle due to the uneven surface and constantly shifting ground.

In fact, while combating the "slip" element, range of motion of joint angles around the hip, knee and ankle were found to similar to running during faster speeds on firm ground (Binnie et al, 2013). That translates to a much higher heart rate, increasing your oxygen debt and blood lactate levels. Meaning you get fitter, stronger and faster quicker.

So incorporating sand running into your training can definitely help improve your race times.

Another article found that soft sandy surfaces reduced muscle soreness and fatigue (Binnie et al, 2014) due to almost four times less impact versus a firmer surface. Because of the softer surface, there's also less stress on our joints which can lessen impact and helps prevent injuries.

When running on firm ground, less of the elastic energy which is stored in our tendons is absorbed, so you don't have to work as hard. When running on sand, it absorbs the forces, meaning you have to generate more forces with your muscles to run.

Researchers found that there was almost four times less impact forces on soft sand compared to firm ground with every single foot strike. This is really good if you need to reduce load through the legs but still want to get in a hard workout when you run. 

Research also suggest that runners who ran on the beach (especially on soft dry sand found farther away from the water) had less muscle damage and inflammation compared to running on grass (Brown et al, 2017).

Due to where I stay, I hardly get to run barefoot on the beach. When I do, which is often during our family's holiday trips, I always start much slower than my usual runs. I also do not worry about the time or distance that I clock. In fact, I often do some short hard sprints (because of the lower impact) to get my heart rate up even higher.

Hearing the waves crash also helps to calm and clear my mind, which is a nice bonus.


Binnie MJ, Dawson B et al (2014). Effect Of Sand Versus Grass Training Surfaces During An 8-week Pre-season Conditioning Programme In Team Sport Athletes. Eur J Sp Sci. 32(14): 1001-1012. DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2013.879333.

Binnie MJ, Peeling P et al (2013). Effect Of Surface-specific Training On 20-m Sprint Performance On Sand And Grass Surfaces. J Strength Cond Research. 27(12): 3315-3520. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31828f043f.

Brown H, Dawson B et al (2017). Sand Training: Exercise-induced Muscle Damage And Inflammatory Responses To Matched Intensity Exercise. Eur J Sp Sci. 17(6): 741-747. DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2017.1304998

Lejeune TM et al (1998). Mechanics And Energetics Of Human Locomotion On Sand. J Expt Biol. 201: 2071-2018.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

"Collapsed" Arches And Tibialis Posterior Muscle Pain

I had a really interesting case involving a triathlete/ runner recently. She had terrible pain in her arches and couldn't even walk around barefoot at home. It had started after she increased her run training recently. The orthopaedic surgeon she consulted had prescribed two pairs (yes two, you read correctly) of orthotics. And he said if they failed she would require surgery. A soft pair for her training and a hard pair while she was wearing her work shoes for her "collapsed arches".

She was advised not to run but was given the green light to bike and swim. Unfortunately, both times she wore her soft orthotics for cycling (and not evening running) her arches hurt after only fifteen minutes and she had stop riding. Even after icing her foot after the ride, her foot still felt sore the next day.
Pretty high eh?
Upon further questioning, she told me she didn't use the orthotic  and was able to walk pain free for 2-3 hours a few days ago in her Havaianas flip flops (or slippers).

However, after she biked again yesterday morning for only ten minutes, the pain came straight back with a vengeance.

When I examined her, her foot was was fairly flat and she had no arches. Her pain was mostly on her navicular bone and it was very tender to touch. I took a quick look at her soft pair of orthotics and noticed that the medial (inner) side of the orthotic was highly built up.

I told my patient I thought it was probably the orthotic irritating her navicular bone since it flared up within such a short time of using it while riding her bike.
Here's how the Tibialis posterior irritates the navicular bone
Other than her navicular bone tenderness, her tibialis posterior muscle was sore upon palpation all the way up her shin. Yes, the tibialis posterior muscle is the very same muscle that causes the much dreaded shin splints in runners.

To make the long story short, I treated her and she's back running happily with no pain. What did I do? I treated her lateral, spiral and superficial back line.

Spiral Line