When Bad Things Happen To Good Runners

Never Give Up! Never Give Up!Sometimes, no matter how closely you follow the recovery rules…your body mechanics catch up with you.  And that…has happened to me.

And it’s pretty devastating.  If you’re a runner…you get it.  If not…you’ll probably find me a bit dramatic.  Hell, you might find me that way regardless…but what it comes down to is…my body is fighting back.

It all started in January.  After I ran the Charleston Marathon, I took a good bit of time off to properly recover.  I had been running myself ragged (literally) over the past year, and instead of my usual 1 week off from all activity, I took a bit longer.  But, one morning, I woke up and had a very unhappy lower back.  The left side of my back was sore…to press on and to move.  I took further time off (because you shouldn’t mess around with the back, honestly).  And then…the hip pain happened…

…and then the hip pain didn’t go away.  It was so much that it was hard to even walk.  No running at all.  After waiting an additional two weeks (missing a marathon due to weather too), I went to see a sports orthopedic doctor.  Xrays turned up nothing…which was good.  So, he sent me to physical therapy, which I started that same week.

My physical therapists are awesome.  I started off with Emily Bullerdick, PT, DPT.  And she took much of the first session to assess what was going on.  Turns out, I have a locked lower back.  AH…back to that lower back.  The entire lower back didn’t want to move, so the rest of my body…shoulders and hips, were trying to balance it out by overcompensating.  Okay…I was given some back exercises and scheduled for 4 sessions in the following two weeks.  I went…I did exercises twice a day at home…I even did them at work…and I wasn’t feeling any better.  Emily was off one day the following week, so I got to meet with another PT.  This time I met with Steven Hnat PT, DP.  He took a look at Emily’s notes and plugged away at some of what she had me doing.  Then, tried a little more, working with my nerves.  He mentioned dry needling and gave me some information on that.  I looked it over and got scheduled for a regular PT appointment and a dry needling appointment the following week.

Dry needling…is painful.  It really is.  It is also known as Intramuscular Manual Therapy (IMT)/Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) and is a modern Western medical modality.  Dry Needling is a treatment technique which uses these small filament type needles to release tight muscles with the goal of permanently reducing muscle pain and dysfunction.  With DN, the needle alone and its effects on the tissue is the treatment.  Physical therapists are now using this technique around the world to effectively treat acute and chronic orthopedic and musculoskeletal conditions.  .  My first (yes…first) session, Steven did dry needling in my thigh, my hip, and along my IT band.  The IT band needles he hooked up to an E-stim, which sent pulses of current through the needles and into the knotted muscles.  THAT…didn’t feel good at all.  But I did get a bit of relief from it.

The next week was a follow up with my doctor…and as the pain was subsiding he told me to enjoy Boston and to get some running in.  Emily said the same thing, and before leaving that day, she put me on the treadmill to do some light running.  I kept an easy pace and managed a relatively pain-free 1 mile.  The next day, I went over to the gym and attempted two.  I was fine while running, but when I was done, I was just sore.  It was hard to go down the stairs to do some of my post-run stretches.  And then, that weekend, I set out to do a short run on Saturday morning, and my body hated ever step.  I managed a mile and spent the rest of the day in excruciating pain.  Back to the orthopedic doctor I went…

And that was when the MRI was ordered.

I continued my physical therapy sessions, having one with the actual stretching and another round of dry needling.  This time Steven hit up my hip again, but did the E-stim to my lower back.  That was the most not-fun thing I’ve done in a long time.  I was pretty sore after that for the rest of the week.  Not in my hip…but in my back.  I continued to do my exercises until I decided they weren’t doing much for the problem…and stopped.  I literally just stopped doing anything.

My MRI was on Tuesday afternoon.  My follow-up was on Wednesday (also the 2 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings…and tax day…but…well…).  So, the fate of the Boston Marathon I earned now hung in the results of an MRI.  My orthopedic doctor came in and pulled up the images.  And there…at the top of my hip joint, he pointed out the smallest of soft-tissue tears.  It was an anterior labrum tear.  Super small…but that was the reason for all the pain.

This, by the way, is a very common injury with active women…especially in their 30s.  Weird, I know.  But it’s because we have these things called HIPS!  What caused this?  It wasn’t overuse…because I hadn’t been doing anything when the pain occured.  Turns out that chronically and habitually tight muscles around joints can cause a lack of joint mobility, which, over time, too much compression on those joints can cause structural damage…most commonly labral tears.  This is especially true in young athletes.  Even sitting too much at a computer or in a car can cause habituated muscle tension that won’t go away.  I also have a tilted pelvis which made the soft tissue rub against the joint and bring on the tear sooner as well.  Ah…body mechanics.

Sitting for long periods of time has always been a problem for me.  What this comes down to is the tightness of my lower back through everything else out of whack.  Tie that in with my habitually tight and short hamstrings, and this was basically a problem I was going to face 10 years down the road regardless of whether I was active or not.  It happened to me sooner, rather than later, however.

Am I doing Boston?  I am.  I have been given permission to run/walk the Boston Marathon as I feel.  I was injected with a Cortisone shot on Wednesday as well.  I spent much of yesterday in a great deal of pain from that, but that is wearing off now, thank God.  Upon returning from what will likely be my worst marathon ever…I am going to start working on getting this all fixed.  No surgery.  But lots of hip and core strengthening.  And, we will go from there.

Is this the Boston Marathon that I wanted?  Not one bit.  While I had every intention of not racing here…but just having a good run and drinking in the experience…this was not the result that I wanted.  BUT…at least I can go there and have my race.  Maybe one day I’ll be back to the runner I used to be.  This isn’t going to stop me…it just my hinder and slow me down for awhile.

I do want to say, I did get quite a bit of love and support from people throughout this ordeal, checking in on me, asking how my pain was doing…and letting me know that they missed seeing me out there.  That was nice to know I had that kind of support because being down with an injury is so isolating.  People forget about you…and when you aren’t around…they don’t think to call or text to check in on you.  So, the fact that every now and again, my friends and running mates did, helped.  A lot.

So…Boston is going to be a painful ordeal, I believe.  But, whether it takes me 4 or 8 hours to get to that finish line…I will cross it.  Proudly.  Probably in tears.  And then…I’ll work on getting better.

Think of me on Monday, friends.  I’ll need all the support I can get.

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