I wanted to post about how great it feels to get assessed by a sports-specific physical therapist (Science!), how I diligently followed his plan and, seemingly miraculously, started running just four days later like he said I would. But that obviously isn’t the case. Let me catch you up.
After my last post about going to an acupuncturist in a state of desperation and, expectedly, coming up completely short, I then made a more rational decision to visit one of the best (the best?) sports massage therapists in Indy, Terry Fletcher. He’s basically twisted the muscles of every podium runner in the city at this point and whether he was going to be able to alleviate the debilitating pain in my leg or not, I knew he was at least going to rely on a physical manipulation to aid my situation instead of just hoping for some “energies” to align themselves or something. Ok…I’m being overly bitter. Anyways, he did his twisting and digging, as if trying to bring me to tears (not THIS time, Terry!), helped loosen up some tightened muscles in my leg, but ultimately the deep-seated (nerve?) pain kept itself wholly intact. That’s ok, I wasn’t expecting massage to FIX me, just help with the overall pain and tightness that probably wasn’t helping anything.
After meeting with Terry, I called in my personal Obi Wan Kenobe, Darrell Barnes of St. Vincent’s Sports Performance center. Darrell was Bob Kennedy’s, American 5000 meter record holder for 13 years, personal physical therapist while he was embarrassing Kenyans the world over. He now works on athletes at the collegiate and professional level here in Indy, while also giving his time to any ol schmo (like me) who needs his extensive knowledge of the athletic body and its subsequent flaws. The first time I had an injury I couldn’t cure through rest and massage, Darrell stepped in and turned everything around in 2 weeks. So it follows that I couldn’t wait to meet with him again and get assessed.
First, here’s the crazy thing. Here in Indy lies the St. Vincent’s Sports Performance center, where the first time I was there I was sitting in the lobby with the most talked about college basketball player of the time. The next time I was there the best players in the NCAA were being prepped for the frickin’ draft. Professional athletes have their signed photos on the wall because they come there frequently for all the services offered. And again, I’m just some nobody local runner who gets to throw down $99 and get the expertise usually reserved for the elite of the elites, people who are PAID HANDSOMELY to play games. And guess what, Darrell recognized me in the lobby, greeted me, and when working on me was able to ask me about various happenings in my life that I didn’t even think he would know. Barnes is one of the most genuinely knowledgable, nice and engaged professionals I’ve ever had the privilege to work with…or be worked on by. Ok…on to the assessment.
I gave him a quick summary of my situation, where the pain resided and what I was doing leading up to that. He pretty much already had the answer in his head before I had finished giving him the rundown, but to be sure he had to do some range of movement tests before proceeding. He had me lay on the table to do some basic strength tests with my legs, had me turn over on my back and felt either side of my pubic bone, stood at the end of the table and checked my leg length, then had me sit up to tell me what was going on. I apparently have a misaligned pelvis where my left side is “jammed up” and my right side has taken all the brunt of the imbalance, therefore locking up in the hamstring, hip adductors and ultimately compressing a nerve around my buttock, lower back and upper hamstring. He could tell this, in part, because my left leg was noticeably shorter than my right. With a little manipulation and a couple abrupt jerks he brought my legs back to the same length. It sounds a little absurd, but sometimes, he explained, you just have to yank on the body to get it back to where it should be.
For the next 45 minutes he then began to work on loosening up the area around my hip which was completely locked in place in contrast to the movement I had in my left hip area. He displayed this by pushing my left hip adductor around freely and then pushing on my right, which caused the rest of my body to move at the same time. Jammed and locked indeed. With an extensive routine of stretching and “over-aligning” he continued to manipulate my right leg into submission, though I honestly had no idea if this was actually doing anything for the pain that rested deep in my body and would radiate all over. Then came the moment of truth. He asked me to stand up and walk around the area to see where the pain was resting and where else we needed to attack. I got up and took a few tentative steps and then a few more confident steps and then held back the urge to sprint across the room. Nothing. Absolutely NOTHING. Not a bit of tightness, pain or discomfort…at all. I couldn’t believe it.
I held back my excitement and simply stated, “It’s gone. I seriously can’t feel a thing.”
Beyond that, I now realized just how “locked up” my hip was leading up to that point. My gait was solid and free, where before I had favored it so much that I was leaning to one side and walking awkwardly. Now I remembered what it felt like to move normally. There wasn’t much more to do at that point. Of course, one session of manipulation isn’t the end of it…as much as I wished it would be.
He assured me the pain would return later in the day, but that the routines he was going to give me would help readjust my pelvic imbalances in order to take the pressure off the nerve and muscles that were causing me so many problems. That was all great, but honestly, I had a pressing question in the back of my head.
“When do you think I’ll be ok to run again?”
When I asked, I was afraid to hear him signal the end of my Fall marathon hopes with a casual, “Oh in about 2 or 3 weeks you should be good to go.” Instead, he told me I should be good to go for a short, light run, “THIS WEEKEND.” I couldn’t believe it…and maybe I shouldn’t have. We then went through a number of adjustment techniques I was going to need to do once or twice a day in order to get everything back in alignment for pain-free running. Even while running I was instructed I would only have to do them for a week or two and then never have to do them again as long as the pain dissipated. I was dumbfounded at the immediacy of the relief and short healing period and walked out of the office with an incredibly large sense of relief and excitement. All of a sudden I was a running bomb with a week long fuse that was going to explode when it reached the end of its trail. I. Couldn’t. Wait.
As advised, the leg/nerve pain did return that evening as I started the alignment routines Darrell gave me. No worries. I diligently stuck to the plan as advised and did notice that the pain in my leg no longer shot up to my lower back, causing me to bend over to one side throughout the day. This was progress. Each day I continued on with the routine, but in the back of my head a concern continued to grow that the healing was moving along as I hoped. 3 days until the weekend. Then 2. Then 1.
Finally, Friday evening I couldn’t take it and decided to go for that short run after work to see if everything had worked out and the death grip had let loose of my leg. I put on my shorts and shoes, which felt like pulling my skin back on alone and started to take a slow and deliberate stride up the sidewalk, feeling a tightness in my hamstring that I hoped would back off. I made it two blocks, turned the corner and headed back the other way growing increasingly concerned as the pain wasn’t just NOT gone, but not getting any better during the run. I completed the loop back to my house, kicked my shoes off and put my normal close on as I hadn’t even broken a sweat. By this time the pain had spread throughout my leg, into my hip and up into my lower back. Failure. The Fall marathon is off.
I’ll tell you though, just 2 blocks into the run and a feeling came into me that I didn’t expect…that deep and genuine emotion that THIS IS ME. Running just makes me who I am and I feel simple and honest when I’m in the act. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain, but for that short while it felt so great. Of course, now I’m left wanting as I struggle to figure out what is going wrong and why the assessment and plan of action didn’t work as had hoped.
There is, of course, so much more to talk about in relation to my mental state, but the gist of the update is that my “last resort” didn’t work out how I had hoped and now i’m figuring out where to go from here. Right now I’m continuing on with the alignment techniques, the strengthening my coach gave me and waiting one more week before taking another plan of action and going back to Darrell Barnes for another follow up assessment with this new information, or lack thereof.
I’ll spare anymore details of my current emotional state in relation to this as you might have already fallen asleep just reading this self-absorbed rambling, but next time I hope to offer something more applicable to the process of physical obstacles, obsession and the overcoming of both. Till then, enjoy your ability to get out there and run…just maybe spare me some of the details. 🙂