On a Roll

If you’ve ever had trouble with you IT band, chances are you’ve been told to foam roll, foam roll, foam roll. And maybe stretch.

 

That’s what I was told too: by other runners, by my physical therapist, by nearly everyone I encounter that knew what an IT band was.

And I listened: I foam rolled the crap out of my leg. And then it got worse. The more I foam rolled, the worse it felt. {And not in that foam rolling “this hurts so good way”.}

It wasn’t until I found my chiropractor that someone finally believed me that the foam rolling and stretching wasn’t helping. See, my IT band was never tight. No stretch would target it, and foam rolling was just beating it up.

Instead of all over foam rolling, my chiropractor focused on specific points of tissue along my IT band that were bothering me. He said the key was to get those spots loose before anything else would help.

New research just came out that shows maybe this guy knew what he was talking about. {I had no doubt he did.} They’ve now shown that foam rolling isn’t a productive treatment method. Instead you need to target several trigger points that are related to the IT band, specifically the tensor fascia lata {TFL} and gluteus maximus.

tensor fascia lata trigger point

Trigger points are essential knots of tissue. Targeting these areas with massage, whether it’s a tennis ball, a foam roller, the stick, or someone hands, is what will make a difference in the recovery of the IT band. {Trigger point therapy.} Everyone has different trigger points, but the TFL and glute max trigger points are extremely common when it comes to the IT band.

The TFL is the tissue on the upper outside portion of your hip- if you’ve foam rolled, you’ve likely screamed bloody murder here once or twice.

tensor fascia latae foam rolling

The glute is, well, your butt. That doesn’t usually feel too good either. But working through these areas can make a huge difference in your treatment.

gluteus maximus trigger points

So while generic, non targeted foam rolling isn’t the answer, targeting specific trigger points can make all the difference. The reason foam rolling works for some people? You’re probably hitting those trigger points. For other people, the trigger points are too deep into the tissue to get it with a swipe of the foam roller.

So just a reminder, the answer isn’t always where you feel the pain.

 

 

PS I’m talking glucose tests over on tiny sneakers

The Outcome

As the weeks slowly passed, my worst fear started to come to life. Each day I noticed something that was a little harder to do; hurt a little bit more.

Images flashed through my head as I’d try to fall asleep- I’d remember my days of being confined to the corner seat on the couch, the nights of not going out with friends because it hurt to stand, and the worst, the mornings where I couldn’t get my shoes on for a run.

I was terrified that life was about to fly into reverse. Everything I’d worked for, fought through, and overcame was about to disintegrate into a distant memory.

painful foot

And then one day I realized it’d been a few days since things had gotten worse. I tried not to let myself get hopeful, but then a few more days passed.

Slowly those days turned into weeks, months, and now almost a year. The pain that came back has stuck around, but after those first couple weeks the progression stopped. And stayed stopped.

So here I am almost a year later; there’s some pain, but I’m eternally grateful things never got as bad as they were in the beginning. It still bothers me every day, but not in a way that’s interfering with my life this time. It’s just something that’s a part of me, like being left handed or allergic to peanuts.

It’s made things like running, biking and lifting weights harder, but not impossible this time around. Thank goodness is not a big enough expression.

And if you’re wondering why I’ve voluntarily put myself through this, it’s because babies don’t like Class D pain meds. Winking smile

baby announcement plus 1

Fighting Injury: A Guest Post

Today’s post about battling and overcoming injury is from Janel at Eat Well with Janel.

Jovrut photo 2 (3)

Overcoming Injuries

If you asked me to write a post prior to January 7, 2010 on overcoming an injury, I couldn’t do it. At 27 years old, after being a 3 sport athlete through high school, a gym junkie through college, and a go-getter competing in half marathons, a duathlon, and a triathlon after grad school, I had never had an injury. Not one. I never had to sit on the bench, see a physical therapist, or even ice a joint more than a handful of times. I was very, very lucky, and proud that I took such good care of my body by constantly stretching and cross training.

IMG_0584

Then somewhere during my triathlon training I felt a twinge in my hip that got worse and worse as I continued to train and race. Fast forward about 6 months and I scheduled surgery to repair my torn hip labrum. I’m not going to lie: I freaked out. Every day leading up to surgery I grappled with the fact that I’d be on the couch for 2 weeks and on crutches, and then scheduled for physical therapy (which I always thought was a joke that didn’t help you recover). Unfortunately, surgery didn’t go the way we hoped and my labrum repair had me on the couch and on crutches for six weeks, and unable to start physical therapy for three months. That was the least of my concerns. Just four days after my surgery, I got a debilitating blood clot in my calf that felt like a gunshot to my leg. I was now faced with two “injuries” to overcome, and slowly but surely the spring after my surgery I started PT and learned how to regain my strength. I take back every negative thing I ever said about physical therapy – it saved me. It gave me the courage to get stronger and retrain my body to get back on track.

Another setback came seven months after surgery when, after a long flight back from Europe, I woke up with stabbing lower back pain out of the blue. No MRI could explain what was wrong, and I spent the next six months – up until now – trying to find treatments to lessen the constant pain. I couldn’t believe my year: I had spent 27 years injury free and now this? Why was I having a year where all I faced were injuries? It felt like a joke the universe was playing on me, but I was ready to play back.

IMG_0210a

I learned in the past year that overcoming your injuries is about physical healing, yes. But more than anything, it is about mental healing. In the beginning of the year whenever I’d see someone outside for a run, or read blog posts about people competing in races, I’d have a pang of jealousy. “They don’t know how lucky they are,” I’d think. But it only made me feel worse. So with the help of my insanely positive and inspirational fiancé, I got my mind straightened out. I started to see my little victories, like increasing one pound in weight at physical therapy or taking a walk around the block, as really, really big victories. I started to think more positively about my situation and my progress. I started to reframe my mindset about my abilities. Sure, I was once the girl who could run 13 miles or swim ‘til her lungs were on fire, but I had to set those memories aside and build on that strength. I had to focus on the new me – the one who discovered strength I didn’t know I had. The one who learned how to overcome things that no book, blog, or words of wisdom could have ever prepared me for.

I’m still overcoming my injuries, and every day I’m getting stronger with less pain. I’m discovering new exercise I’m able to do – like Pilates – that I never tried before. But the biggest lesson I learned after the past year was that in order to heal my physical injuries in my hip and back, I had to start with my head. If you’re overcoming an injury, whether it is a long term one, or one that only has you sitting out for a day or two resting, know that changing your mind about the situation and focusing on positive progress is the only way to heal. If I can do it, so can you!

—–

Janel Ovrut is a Boston-based Registered Dietitian and a food blogger. You can follow her food and fitness focused tweets at @DietitianJanel and her blog Eat Well with Janel.

Overcoming Injury: A Guest Post

Today’s post is from Katie at Live for the Long Run. Katie learned about injuries the hard way- and early on. Here’s her story:

I learned the hard way that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

I started running in August of 2009. I quickly fell in love with the release it provided me as well as the magnificent things it was doing for my health. All of these positive side effects made me push harder. There was just one problem: I had no idea what I was doing.

My ignorance and overzealousness caught up with me.

clip_image002

After running for three months with a pain in my left leg, I finally visited a sports medicine doctor in December of 2009 when I started feeling the pain all of the time. I explained my symptoms to him. He listened. He nodded. He rang a tuning fork and held it up against the spot that I was complaining about pain. I jumped off the table. He diagnosed me with a stress fracture.

He pulled his chair up to the table I was sitting on and wrote out his treatment plan for me on the paper liner covering the table. The original treatment plan included:

1. No more running. Nada. Zip. Zero. (Water running and spinning were still okay).

2. Physical therapy three times a week.

3. Active release therapy (ART) three times a week.

4. Start taking calcium and vitamin D on top of my multivitamin.

I didn’t listen. I had made so much progress with running, I decided I could just back down on my mileage and that would be enough. I didn’t want to start gaining weight back/losing the fitness level I had worked so hard to get.

A month later, I went back to my sports med. doc for a reassessment. He took one look at the x-ray and shook his head.

The stress fracture had gotten significantly worse. My secret treatment plan was no longer a secret. Water running and spinning was out.

clip_image004

This sexy looking boot was in. For two whole months.

I continued with physical therapy. No ART until the bone healed. I listened this time and wore the boot all the time.

At first, I scoffed at the physical therapy exercises. Moving a towel with my foot? Scrunching a towel up using my toe? Seriously?

Then my physical therapist retook my measurements. My range of movement was significantly better. I don’t know if it was the rest that my leg was getting thanks to the boot or the seemingly mundane exercises using high-tech equipment like towels, but something was working.

I struggled when I stopped feeling pain all the time in my leg. I decided that since I wasn’t in pain anymore, I must be healed. I wanted to take off the boot and go for a run. Physical therapy was not enough exercise for me. Constant preachings from my physical therapist, Dan, was the only reason I continued to wear the boot. Finally he told me that if I didn’t listen, I’d probably never run again.

After that, I threw everything I had into my physical therapy. After two months of PT, I started ART and ditched the boot. ART was the best pain I have ever felt.

I went back to the doctor after a month of ART. He looked at my x-ray. He pulled his chair over to the table and started writing on the paper table liner again.

This time was writing out a training schedule for getting back into running safely. I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding.

I listened to every word he said. I took it slow. I hit the mileage that my doc prescribed every week, never exceeding it. Every time I wanted to push, I heard Dan’s voice in the back of my head telling me that I might never run again. I still hear Dan’s voice to this day (creepy, I know).

In some ways, dealing with such a serious injury so early in my running career was a good thing. The consequences of overtraining are very real. It’s not something that could happen to someone else, but never to me. I am human. When something hurts, I head back to my sports med doc’s office. I constantly remind myself that running through pain today might mean that I can’t run tomorrow.

I want to running twenty, thirty, maybe even fifty years from now.

I’ve got time.

Why rush through the healing process now?

Picture 204-1_2

Have a story about overcoming injury or starting to run? Email me: rungirlrunn at gmail dot com.

ART No More

Today’s my last appointment with the knee doctor. Not because my knee’s better, but because The Man says I’m done. And by man I mean insurance.

I feel like I’m breaking up with my security blanket.

Every time I go in, I tell him what hurts and what I did, and he tries to fix it. We both know that he can get my knee in fairly good shape, but as soon as I try to run or bike, it all goes down hill. It feels safe knowing when it’s time to run that someone will be there to put the pieces back together.

Not anymore though. I’m on my own. Yikes.

This doctor was different because he used ART as therapy.

monet water lilies

Just kidding. ART as in Active Release Technique.

art info

When I first mentioned I saw this doctor for ART, many of you said ART was magic and provided an instant cure for your injury. Ok you didn’t exactly say that, but you had good results.

While mine aren’t so immediate, I definitely encourage anyone with an injury to look into it as an option.

What is ART?

In my non-professional, uneducated assessment, ART is like a foam roller on steroids. And crack. And heroin. All at once.

The idea of ART is to release the build up of scar tissue, which affects the lengthening of muscles and tendons.

active_release_technique info

It uses the same idea of trigger point therapy to work out kinks in the muscle and tissue. The therapist digs into the trigger point, then has you move that body part to release the tissue. It’s less strange than I make it sound.

active release technique

If anybody is certified in ART and wants to move in with me to be my personal ART-ist, I will pay you in brownies and cookies and cinnamon rolls…

I’m 100% serious.

 

Have you used alternative therapies for an injury?

The Non-Running Saga: Knee vs Brain

I keep waiting to write my running comeback post. It’d go something like this:

I ran! 3 miles pain free! Only that hasn’t happened. So I’m not writing my comeback post. Yet.

running track

While I can hardly believe it’s December for many reasons, what strikes me the most is that it’s been six months since I’ve ran any distance worth writing about. This used to be a blog about running in spite of a chronic pain disorder. That was it’s entire purpose. Now it’s a blog about food and random other things to fill the space while I sit here and wait for my knee to handle running again.

You can only be so patient while reading or hearing about others’ great running adventures. I can only write so many posts about not being able to run. I mark the time by crossing out squares in the calendar, each penciled in with a race I was hoping to be ready for… I don’t write them down anymore.

calendar

Things started looking up last month after I found a new doctor– one that wasn’t so eager to cut into my knee. He said of course I’d be running again; surgery was crazy. Like a good little patient, I diligently visited him bright and early twice a week for a month, each time full of hope and excitement.

He knows what he’s talking about- he answers my 5,000 daily questions and my “what ifs” and “whys” without hesitating. He points out the parts that aren’t working on a giant drawing of the human muscular system. Every morning he asks expectantly, “How’s the running?”

I answer “Great!”, because at this point, a slow mile on the treadmill is victorious. But I think he’s on to me… I should be running farther, and it’s not happening yet.

But now the question is, can my knee not handle running more than 2 miles, or can my brain not handle it?

north face race relay

I know, without a doubt, had I stopped running that race when I first felt that tug of pain in my knee, I wouldn’t be here writing about not running. I’d be training for Disney like I’d planned, the last race I have yet to cross out on my calendar.

Now when I run and I feel that familiar shot of pain on the outside of my leg, I become absolutely terrified. Almost literally paralyzed with fear. If I keep running, am I dooming myself to another 6 months on the sidelines?

I’ve been down this road before. I’ve put on my game face, and powered through. But 6 months on, 6 months off isn’t really the game plan I had in mind.

 

So now it’s back to the doctor, yet again, to figure out whether it’s my knee… or whether it’s my head.