So I’ve been reluctant to share what I’m going through lately, simply out of fear that it won’t work. I’m still reluctant, and I truly hope I don’t jinx anything. But I figured that it’s time to talk about this procedure.
If you’ve read my blog before you’re fully aware of my persistent battle with shin pain. Stress fractures last summer. And then the fact that I’ve been plagued by shin splints for the past year. You’re probably thinking, “shin splints for a year?” I usually get a few responses when I tell people this, even though they don’t say it aloud I can tell what they’re thinking. 1)Shin splints don’t last a year. At worst maybe like 3 weeks. 2)They’ve had shin splints and yes they’ve been annoying but c’mon, they’re just shin splints. They’re not THAT bad. People usually nod, or say “that sucks” and move on, and I know they’re probably thinking I just have a really low threshold to pain. It’s because of these reactions that I’ve chosen to try and ignore the pain. But lets face it, I’m only running twice a week and am in pain constantly, even sitting at my desk. There may have been a day or two here and there that I’ve felt totally fine, but for the past year I have had this nagging pain in my lower legs.
When I met my current doctor at a open consultation seminar at my running store he told me to come in and he’d break up whatever was in my leg. I put it off for a few weeks, but went in last week for my first session. During my consultation he had concluded that there was an immense amount of scar tissue built up on my bone and that this needed to be pulled away and broken up. He also warned me, multiple times, that this was going to hurt…a lot. I told him “ok, fine”. But I don’t think he pegged me as someone who could handle the pain. Like most people, I think he doubted, ever so slightly, the level of my condition. He told me he would be using Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) and the Graston Technique.
A.R.T. is a “state of the art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.” http://www.activerelease.com/# I’m familiar with the technique. I’ve heard good things. And I’ve heard it hurts. But let me tell you, it has nothing on the Graston Technique. And lucky me, we’ve been primarily using the Graston Technique in all my sessions. This technique uses what I like to refer to as medieval torture instruments to break up the scar tissue.
During my first session, the doctor began working on my right leg first (my better side). He got about a minute into it and stopped and looked at me. “Wow. You’ve got a lot clumped in there. This must be really painful.” “Yes,” I replied. “And that’s my good leg.” When he began working the left one we started to hear a really weird noise. He once again stopped and looked at me, “you realize you have a lot of fluid in there? That’s not good. Can you hear it?” I said I had no idea it was there, and frankly didn’t understand why or how fluid could be there. He gave me a look, which I appreciate more than anything, that said, “I get it now. You really are in pain. This is real.” The danger with the fluid where it is, as most runners know, is compartment syndrome. I don’t want to get to that stage. And where on the right leg we’ll be able to make progress right away with ridding the scar tissue and fascia, I need to get this fluid out of my left leg.
Second session: When I get these procedures done I sit on the table, legs out in front, sitting up but leaning back on my wrists. And I’ll be honest: This Graston technique business hurts like hell. But I stay still. The doctor stops at one point and says, “you’re allowed to scream if you want. You can yell, scream, do whatever. I know this must hurt.” I said thanks but this actually works for me. We talked about it more today. I was telling him that I know it sounds weird but I actually need to meditate on the pain. I need to focus on it so strongly. That’s how I can get through it. Weird, I know. He said that that’s actually a response you see in a lot of endurance athletes. Which I guess makes sense. I’m actually proud of myself that I can hold it together like that. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if I stub my toe I scream and yell and curse the corner that jumped out at me. But unbearable pain like this? I’m stoic. When I told my mother about this she said that she’s the same way. I think we’re wired to remain strong and concentrated under immense pain and pressure. In fact, it never occurred to me that I could scream until he brought it up.
So I guess you’re wondering how this all happened and what do we do now. That’s what I was wondering at least. Yes, shin splints were probably the root of the problem. But this was injury on top of injury on top of injury that contributed to this amount of scar tissue. And it has to get broken up if I ever want to run, or even be pain free. This isn’t stuff that just goes away with time. As I’ve discussed before, I fit none of the characteristics of someone who is chronically affected by shin splints. My pronation is fine, everything is neutral. My arches are normal. My strike is fine. So what on earth is wrong with me? Well this doctor offered a suggestion that I hadn’t ever considered before, but makes perfect sense: I’m running with my lower leg. My power is coming from my calf and knee. My inability to do a proper squat began to confirm this theory. On Monday we’ll be working on my stride and re-learning how to run. In the meantime I’ve been working on my squats at home, icing like it’s my job, taking soothing baths in epsom salt, and I just purchased some compression socks that will hopefully help work this fluid up towards my heart and away from my foot.
I’m reluctant to share all of this simply because I’m afraid it won’t work. This is not a cheap process, and I would like to just quickly say that our health care system is extremely flawed. I’m extremely grateful to my mother who is helping me with this, and I can only hope that this is worth it. I hope it is, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help ensure that this process works. This past Monday left me in excruciating pain. The bruises on my leg back this up. But today wasn’t so bad. It still hurt while he was jabbing metal utensils into my flesh and scraping my bone, but I’m doing pretty well a few hours later. He said I should begin to notice a difference next week. Check back later, and hopefully it’ll be true.