Monday, November 11, 2013

The Frustration of an Injury

Having an injury that limits your activity or hurts or stops you from doing things you like is frustrating and sad and annoying.  I have been dealing with a hip/leg injury for almost a year and I am so over it. 

Just to recap after the Chicago Marathon last year I began to feel a bad ache in my left leg.  I went to a chiropractor, stopped running for a couple weeks, went to physical therapy, felt ok for awhile, then sprained my hip flexor during Soldier Field and am finishing up a second round of PT now.  After my first PT therapy session I learned that my hip and glute muscles were not strong enough and that one of my legs was shorter than the other due to a rotation of my pelvis.  After my first prescription I felt better, but did not keep up with my exercises which was a factor in spraining my hip flexor.  

This last go round of physical therapy I have been much better about doing my exercise homework.  On my last visit this my therapist told me that my hip strength is looking very good.  I was feeling good for awhile, but the last month or so my left leg started to ache again.  I wasn't having issues with my pelvis rotating as much and then all of sudden it seemed to become an issue again.  Even after a correction I was still having the ache in the back of my calf and thigh.  I feel the ache even when I'm not running and it is pretty constant throughout the day.  It does hurt a bit more after a run, so I have been cutting back on my running. 

My body was feeling out of whack so I decided to get a massage at the Cortiva Institute in town with one of the professional therapists there.  One of the therapists at work recommended someone there for me to try.  I've only been twice, but it has helped some.  She noticed the rotation in my hips and tightness in my lower back and calf.   
My physical therapist recommended doing a Video Gait Analysis to see if there is anything with my running form that might be making things worse.  She also suggested I go back to my doctor.  I did my gait analysis and should have the full results soon, but my PT did notice a few things on first look.  With the full report I'll get some more exercises I can do to help these things. 

After a visit with my doctor a couple weeks ago she suggested I get an MRI of my lumbar spine so we could get a closer look at things since I was still experiencing pain.  This was my first MRI and I was little nervous, but it went well.  The MRI machine makes so much noise - I had no idea.  It also took about 15 minutes to get five different views.  It's amazing that a machine can take picture of what inside your body look like, right?  

I had a follow up with my doctor a week later to go over the images and it looks like I have bulging or herniated disc in my lower back.  It is my L5 disc, which is the second to lowest in the spine and the second most common disc herniation in the back.  

source: Mayfiled Clinic
What this means is that the nucleus of that disc has been pushed or leaked out and is pressing into my nerve which is causing the aching I feel in my left leg.  It is a degenerative issue, so pretty much something I'll have to be mindful of and take care of forever.  

What I wanted to know is how to make this better.  I mean I've been having this pain on and off for almost a year!  The first steps include heading back to physical therapy.  Now that we know what the issue is the therapy can be focused more to strengthening my core, posture, and stretches.  My doctor has also prescribed an anti-inflammatory to help with the pain for few weeks.  

I am glad I finally know what is causing the pain, but am bummed that this is something I'm going to have to deal with for the rest of my life.  When you have an injury like this it is very likely to happen again.  I just want to run and be healthy and I'm not now so it just makes me sad.  I think I am a pretty optimistic person, but I needed some time to be sad about it before I shared it on here. 

So right now I am three weeks into no running.  After visiting with my PT she thinks not running for awhile is a good idea.  At this point I don't really know how long of break it will be; it all depends on my progress and pain levels.  
In lieu of running I have been walking and swimming with limited kicking, because too much makes my leg hurt.  The biggest thing my PT has told me is that if some exercise or movement makes my leg hurt to stop.  What we want is for the pain to be focused around my lower back, where the issue is, not spreading down my leg.  I'm only a couple weeks into physical therapy so we'll see how things go.  The ache in my leg doesn't seem as frequent, which is good, but is still there, so there is more work to be done.  
I am hopeful that now that we know what the issue is I can finally focus on getting better.  I know this whole experience, although frustrating, will help me to be a stronger and healthier runner.  I am looking forward to feeling better so I can get back out there and enjoy running again!

A lot of stuff in this post, but just wanted to explain what was going on and share my thoughts on things right now.  

How have you dealt with an injury? 

1 comment:

VeggieNextDoor said...

So glad you had such a great time with your family! You and your brother look so similar... And the cook off sounds like SUCH a fun tradition!

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