Thursday, April 11, 2013

This Injury

It's unbelievable how one week your biggest exercise consideration is how you are going to manage to fit in 70 miles despite your busy schedule of working full time and caring for your family, and then four days later you wonder if you'll ever be able to run even one mile without pain.  But let's back up.

Tuesday February 18, messing around on the floor with my family, my right leg gets bent in a funny position.  I was a little concerned, at first, but then no worries, the next day my slow easy run went just fine.

Sunday February 24, I ran a 10 mile race in hilly Columbia MD on very tired, already-ran-52-miles-that-week legs, set a PR (which I wasn't that thrilled with, as my goal was a couple minutes faster), then ran a slow 8 miles to finish off the day.  My legs felt pretty dead from the race the next morning, but I felt okay.  Sore Tuesday, so I skipped my speedwork and did an easy run instead.  I had a deep tissue massage that night, and my therapist noted that my right leg had really, really tight muscles, which he worked on for quite a bit.  After his intense session, I decided to keep the run easy on Wednesday morning.

And then came Thursday February 28.   I had a tempo run on the schedule, but my legs were still feeling pretty dead, so I decided to try a few intervals ladders instead.  When I got to my four minute ladder and saw I couldn't get my pace under an 8 minute mile for that length of time, I decided to scrap it and jog back to work.  I went to the restroom to change clothes and freshen up, then went to a meeting at 8:40.  When I stood up 50 minutes later, I couldn't walk.

Throughout that day, I had a visible limp in my right leg.  I couldn't figure it out.  I had felt okay during the run, though my legs were obviously not recovered from the race.  I was in terrible pain, even after three Advil.  I declared Friday a rest day, and did a long soak in an Epsom salt bath instead.

Saturday I felt fine, so I figured I'd start my long run by doing a 1.5 mile out and back, and if I was still feeling pain free, start the 14 mile loop with the DC Road Runners group.  3 miles, no pain, so we headed out.  At 4 I started to feel some discomfort.  At 5 it was pain.  I decided to turn around, but I still have two miles to go.  By 6 it was radiating further down my leg, and when I reached my car I had excruciating pain in my inner adductor.  This was not good.

Sunday in church I was hobbling.  Not just limping.  Hobbling.  People made comment after comment.  I was sure I'd broken something.

Monday I made an appointment with my GP.  She diagnosed it as IT Band Syndrome and told me to stop running.   Seriously?  First of all, I had IT Band Syndrome when I was 27, and it did not stop me from running.  It was a pain, but I could run through it.  Whatever I had now, there was no running through it.  And the pain was in completely different places.  Shooting pain in my hip, glute, and adductor.  Not my outer knee.

Tuesday I sought a second opinion with a Sports Injury Orthopedist.  He took x-rays and said he couldn't see any fractures, and he diagnosed it as Snapping Hip Syndrome and Piriformis Syndrome.  He said I could try to run and just cut my mileage down, and prescribed Physical Therapy.

I tried to get an appointment with the PTs at the office where I met this doctor, but they had nothing available for a month.  Really?  A month?

In the meantime, I made an appointment with a Sport Chiropractor who does Active Release Therapy, which I had heard good things about.  But I couldn't get in to see her until after the marathon, either.

I mentioned this previously, but on the Friday before the race, I attempted 3 miles.  And it hurt.  I went home and started googling stuff on recovering from running injuries, and read about this thing called the AlterG (antigravity) treadmill.  It allows you to run on a percentage of your body weight, resulting in much less impact.  I found out that two PT clinics in my area offer this, and one of them accepted my insurance.  I sent them an email, and got a response the next day that they have a fabulous therapist who is a runner, Ironman, and specializes in running injuries, AND she happened to have an appointment on Monday.

The day after the marathon DNF, I sadly walked into the PT office, where I met my therapist, Heather.  She spent about ten minutes poking and prodding my legs, and told me she was like a body detective and her job was to figure out what the root of the injury was. She agreed that I had "piriformis syndrome" and "snapping hip syndrome", but they were probably symptoms of the real problem.

And then she discovered that my SI joint was out of rotation.  She didn't seem surprised.  She said "Now I'm going to put it back into place."  She bent my knee, pushed a certain way, and I immediately felt some relief.  No more snapping hip.

That was almost a month ago.  In that time, I have seen Heather twice a week.  She begins our sessions with something called "Dry Needling", similar to accupuncture, where she sticks needles in my muscles and faschia.  I can't say it is comfortable, but it does seem to relax my angry muscles.  On Monday, after three weeks of absolute rest from running, I was allowed to try the AlterG Treadmill.  I didn't feel any pain during the actual 14 glorious minutes I was allowed to run, but the following day I could feel my SI joint and hips flare up.  Big time.  I had more knots on my right side then I'd ever known possible.  She spent a good 30 minutes doing the most painful dry needling session I'd had thus far, but it worked.  I could feel the trigger points release, and today (Thursday) the swelling is completely gone.  I was put on another week of running rest, and hopefully will be allowed to try the AlterG again on Monday.

I also feel I'm in good hands with the Sports Chiropractor team.  They have a certified athletic trainer who works with me on strengthening exercises, and the ART massage and adjustments seem to help.  Two weeks ago, I couldn't sit for more than 20 minutes without excruciating pain in my back or sciatic nerve.  Now, the only time I have pain is when I run.

Of course, all I really want to do is run.  It's hard for me to believe how much I was running six weeks ago, because right now even a half mile isn't possible.  I haven't signed up for any triathlons this summer because I am not convinced I'll be able to do the final leg.  I am swimming or cycling 6 days a week, and trying to stay positive.


  1. So sorry to hear about your injury! But sounds like you're in great hands. I also had a great PT named Heather at Inova PT in Asburn - is it the same Heather? Either way, I'm glad you're getting effective treatment but be patient! I see you're like me and can't wait to get back out there, but speaking from my full year of injuries experience, don't do too much, too soon!

    1. My PT only works in Falls Church, but maybe she worked somewhere else previously? Full year of injury experience. Wow. Well Boston is a year away, I guess.

    2. By the way I was relieved to see you crossed the finish at Boston long before the explosions. Glad you are safe and sound.

  2. Must be so difficult Gretchen. So sorry about your injury but hopefully you are making progress. It sounds like you are on the right track, hang in there!

  3. VERY glad that you have found the right people for the job. So good to see you at the wedding.

  4. Injuries are always a huge blow when you're so active but it's good that you sought out help before it really got worse. It's great that you've found a good team to work with who understand your need for treatment. Anyway, glad to hear that you're running again. Here's to hoping there won't be any injuries to keep you down any time soon. -Aubrey @ Primary Care Associates