Sunday, July 29, 2012

Too Many Doctors, but Some Running, Too

On Friday, I ran for 40 minutes! It's the first time since March that I've run more than four miles at once. A little boost from sea level air helped, though I like to think the massive humidity in Missouri, where I'd flown to collect my kids and see my parents (too briefly), cancelled some of the "thick air" advantage out.

Boy, my hat is off to all of you who contend with that kind of heat and dampness on a regular basis. It was like running with a wet washcloth over my mouth and nose. I'll take less oxygen any day if it means cool dry mornings.

Before leaving Colorado, I had two key doctor appointments. Here's a summary (since all of this medical stuff is starting to seem downright self-absorbed):

Last Tuesday, I returned to Jim, the physician's assistant in the orthopedic practice. He reviewed my MRI with me. It didn't show nothing, which was my greatest fear. I do have some disc degeneration in my lumbar spine, and as expected, they are recommending a steroid injection for the pain. Jim thinks with good core maintenance I should be able to be pain-free for a while after the shot, so I made an appointment for it. The downside: many people my age, especially those of us with a history of sedentary jobs involving a lot of sitting at a desk, have disc degeneration in the exact spot I'm showing it. My pain may or may not be related to it.


The next day, I visited Dr. Hansen, the chiropractor Darren wanted me to see about my tweaky right hamstring. I told him the boring story of my back and my return to running, and he ran me through several diagnostic tests (toe touching, twisting my legs around to see where the stiff places are, etc.). He feels that I may not need the shot but recommends that I keep the appointment for now and consider cancelling it if working with him mitigates my pain. He then gave me some active release therapy (ART) for my hips, back, stomach and the hamstring.

I liked Dr. Hansen. He's a longtime runner and high-school cross country coach himself, and he has a good sense of humor. He does his homework, and I trust him, even though I come from a background that's decidedly unfriendly to chiropractors (my dad's work resolving insurance lawsuits really biased him against them). The only thing he's suggesting that I'm unsure about is the Graston technique. I could find no real science backing this up online. Any Graston stories out there?


The situation right now is this: I have an appointment for a steroid shot on Aug. 22. The good news is everyone agrees I can run and train, that running hasn't and won't make whatever the underlying problem is worse (whether it's the discs or something else).  Dr. Hansen recommends keeping any speed work at tempo pace or slower for now until the hamstring completely resolves, and he's given me another routine of post-run moves to loosen my back.

I'd love to have enough of a reduction in my pain before Aug. 22 to be able to cancel the shot, largely because I'll have to cut back on anything strenuous the week following--cutting back is the last thing I want to do right now. But I'm dubious that I'll really be able to do that. The pain has been there for so long that it's hard for me to imagine any set of exercises or therapies will cut into it that quickly. I'll do my best to stay optimistic about it. Honestly, the only thing that's keeping me going to these doctors is the fact that I don't EVER want to go through this again, that I need to fix this now, or at least determine what can make it something I can live with and still run reasonably well.

Quitting running? Not something I'll ever consider.


  1. Fingers crossed that you will not need that shot :)

  2. raina_smalltownrunnerJuly 29, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    I could do without heat and humidity too!

    Hope that the doctors visits get you back to 100% soon and that there is no need for the shot..but if you have it that it does the trick.

    Maybe you can find a way to do your job without sitting..or the desk. :D ??

  3. Yay for a 40 minute run and I bet sea level felt pretty amazing too!  This makes me glad I don't sit much for work!  I hope the ART helps and you can avoid the shot.

  4. Fingers crossed that you don't have to have the shot but definitely good news that running won't make your back worse.  That's something though it isn't fun to run in pain.  

    How did your kids do on the flight by themselves?

  5. I hope you start getting answers and resolution much sooner than later.  I know how frustrated and discouraged you must feel.  BUT woo-hoo for a 4 mile run!  You must celebrate the small and simple victories because they will be a source of encouragement.  I am having to work on some body "issues", too.  The issues are all tied together - tight hips, quads, psoas, glutes, hamstrings, piriformis, etc.  Our massage therapist is the one who is figuring it out.  Here is a quick read on how all of that works - it all affects the back, too.  Maybe something will jump out and be helpful to you.
    Have a great week!

  6. Ooh...balance ball chair?

    Glad you can keep running, and hopefully you'll get the kind of answers you're hoping for.

    BTW, I don't think the medical stuff sounds self-absorbed.  You're going to have a wealth of information for someone dealing with the same issues you are.  Plus, since it's such a huge thing in your life, it's nice of you to let your friends support you while you're finding answers.

  7. I agree with Kate.  and I hope that ART works and that you will not need the shot...I don;t know what Graston is I will have to Google that.  my favorite part of this post is the 40 min part!!!!!!!!! :) and the last line :)

  8. You are one tough lady.  What a journey you've been on lately.  I'm glad the MRI revealed what the issue may be and I hope that Dr. Hansen is correct!

  9. Sorry to hear about the degeneration issue. I wonder how many of us may have some of that going on. Ugh. My sports chiro has done Graston on me several times as a part of my rehab process and knock wood, he's always worked miracles on me so I go with it.
    Sending all good vibes from steamy Chi-town! Hang in there girl, you're doing everything right.

  10. I've had the Graston treatment several times.  Once to get rid of scar tissue caused from a massive hematoma, another time when I injured my adductors  and most recently at Allsports - the chrio did it as I had the beginnings of "runner's knee".   It definitely seems to help.   Hopefully we are still on for tomorrow and we can talk about it more in person!  I've been looking forward to a nice visit and PANCAKES!!!  :)

  11. Graston technique is interesting. I had it done right after the race where I just missed my sub 2-hour half marathon goal. For tight and well worked muscles, I think it's great. It was something beyond "extreme foam rolling", but I'm no sure it'll help your issues. Just my 2 cents.

  12. Thanks for the update, I was wondering how everything was going... bummer on the disc degeneration.  Although it sounds like you're in good hands. 
    I have no personal experience with Graston, but do remember reading other runner's reports of how amazing it is... hope it helps!

  13. I just looked up Graston Technique.  Sounds like it might hurt a little, but it seems to be the same school of thought as foam rolling and trigger point massage.  I hope the ART works for you!

  14. Wishing there was a simple fix for you...

    My sister recently suggested that I should find something to do other than running.  Not that I'm running right now, but I love running and can't wait until I can back to it, so I hear you on the not quitting running.

  15. My heart goes out to you as you try to get to the bottom of this. I know you must be supremely frustrated, but hopefully within the next month or so you will have some answers and a long-term solution. Good luck! (P.S. You do actually get "used" to the heat & I am sure you do with the lack of oxygen. I will be in Denver briefly in a few weeks for a wedding and I am interested to see how running there affects me!)