I have heard it said that runners are a physio’s best and worst patients – best, because they keep on coming back for more; worst, because they only hear what they want to hear. Which is why, I guess, they keep coming back for more.
I am definitely the latter.
Let me give you some brief background: About three years ago, I picked up a terrible case of ITB. Not the kind that you can strap and run through. The kind where your knee seizes, and you end up limping home. (Partly because of said knee, but mostly because you have kicked the concrete bin and half-broken your toe in sheer frustration.)
Because I’m not particularly good at doing anything in half measures, I consulted with about 27 of Joburg’s best specialists – from chiropractors, physiotherapists and biokineticists, to podiatrists, orthopaedic surgeons, neurologists and even two neurosurgeons. Discovery loved me.
I rested, I did the rehab, I iced and heat-packed. I strapped. I rolled. I was deep tissue massaged and needled and cortisoned and lyno’ed (if you don’t know what that is, do your best to avoid it. My legs were so bruised afterwards, my husband thought I had taken up cycling – and crashed!).
In a fit of panic, I even went to private pilates sessions. That was probably worse than the Lyno Therapy. I would rather poke my eyes out with a blunt fork than do that again.
Nothing helped. The ITB set in before I completed my first kilometre. I didn’t need to be told that I would never run again; I simply couldn’t.
I was miserable and revolting, I shouted at my children and scowled at my husband. I avoided my running friends, and had to physically stop myself from ramming into anyone who happened to be running in my path. It wouldn’t have surprised anyone – least of all me – if I’d arrived home one evening with a single, blood-spattered Asic hanging off my tow bar.
(In fact, if you know someone who is missing a bright pink and black Asic Gel Nimbus, you should inbox me.)
I booked the ITB snip. Even though every specialist I spoke to told me it wouldn’t help me in the long term.
Then I got the best piece of health advice that anyone had ever given me, from a friend, who also happened to be a physio (but was obviously too scared to treat me!):
“The worst thing you can do for your body is to stop moving,” she said. “The most damaging thing that doctors do [and here she was talking about her own colleagues, the physiotherapists] is to make patients too scared to move.”
She was right. I was scared. My early diagnosis of ITB had snowballed to the point that I had even been recommended – and seriously considered – spinal surgery.
And then I remembered another sage piece of advice, from another doctor friend:
“It is never a good policy to be on the business end of a surgeon’s knife.”
I took a deep breath. I cancelled the surgery, and I started again from scratch. I found a new physio, who looked me over with a fine-toothed comb and told me what my friend had diagnosed in passing while watching me stretch – that I was hyper-mobile. Which is to say that my body is not made to run. But it could, if I looked after it properly.
I bought new shoes. Not because the old ones were worn, or bad, but because I needed a clean slate. And new shoes, obviously. I booked a regular slot with a (new) biokineticist.
I started running with a hip brace. I read Born to Run. I changed my style to a forefoot strike. I went to the Nike store and bought more pants.
It took some time (although possibly not as long as it has taken you to read this bit of ‘brief background’ – sorry!) but I am back on the road.
(And feeling a little guilty about she of the pink and black Asic.)
Yesterday, however, I popped in for my regular physio session, with what I described as a ‘kind of sore calf’, which turned out to be ‘kind of calf strain’. And I have been given very, very strict instructions not to run for a week.
So, of course, I am now physically aching to run. Which I wasn’t yesterday, because the weather looked kak, and I hadn’t been told not to. And actually, my calf was physically aching.
Anyway. I’m trying my best to avoid looking at my shoes. And my Strava feed.
Do you think when my physio said “No Running”, she meant “No Running At All?” Or do you think she possibly meant “Ok, so No Running, unless you Really Have To Because Your Mileage on Strava Looks Bad This Week”?
Disclaimer: Kim is not a doctor. She is definitely not advocating that anyone who has been advised to not run, should just go ahead and run. She is, however, warning her current specialists that this is probably exactly what she will do, so they should probably plan in advance for that, and keep her current slots available for the foreseeable future.