Since hurting my hip the week before Christmas, I’ve been running less and less. And then even less again – in the past week and a half I have relegated myself entirely to ‘running’ on the elliptical trainer, which hopefully maintains my heart and lung’s ability to run when the time comes, but doesn’t really make up for the fact that my legs can’t run for sh*t.
Initially I was adamant that the new pain would go away of its own accord, because it clearly isn’t related to my (now perfect) running form. Surely. It can’t be, because my form is seriously so perfect. I figured it was just a little ‘overuse injury’ that I had probably caught early enough to just rest and let get better.
I don’t know if I didn’t rest it enough, but it did not go away. Each time that I attempted to run over Christmas, the pain came shooting back through my right hip and now I have it 24-7. That’s all the time, for those of us that hate numbers.
One of the interesting affects of writing a blog about one topic (ie, triathlon) is that some people seem to think that is all I do: blog and train. I guess it’s easy to forget I have to do actual paid work as well. Oh, and wash myself and make food and walk the dog and do the laundry and whatnot. So I’d just like to point out that if physio offices were open at 6am, I’d probably have been there on Monday morning. But alas I had to wait until I knew I had more than a 20 minute lunch break to waste on a doctors appointment.
So don’t panic – I wasn’t trying to sabotage myself or give up running or find a way to give up triathlon entirely by not fixing my hip pain. I think I just need to quit my job and divorce my family so that I’ve got a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to this crap.
Until I get around to that, bear with me. I generally get there in the end.
The last time (and only time) that I saw a Physiotherapist was about 8 years ago, before I had a shoulder operation that I’d been putting off for about 4 years. (But hey, I did eventually get there in the end, see?)
To try and manage the pain, my doctor at the time suggested a physiotherapist may be able to assist with some exercises, or massage, or pressure point stuff.
I don’t remember much about the appointment except it didn’t help one iota. So it’s definitely fair to say that I had little to no faith that a Physiotherapist would actually be able to help with this weird but excruciating hip pain that I can’t properly describe and have no idea of what may have caused it.
But the fact is. I can’t even run 100m with it, and eventually my mum (who is a firm believer in the power of Physiotherapists) cottoned on to this fact and nagged me so much that I pretended that yes, I had booked a physio appointment for Friday.
And then I realised my lie would quickly fall apart if I couldn’t back it up with advice or a diagnosis (or lack thereof) from some kind of real Physio. So I made a real appointment for today. So that will teach her for nagging me! Ha! Oh, wait…
So today was the day. Don’t get me wrong, I had no faith in the Physio, but I also had high expectations that he or she had better prove me wrong in my faithlessness. I need to be able to run. There are 29 days left until I have to compete in my first ever triathlon. And I will run that thing if it kills me, which would be a shame for my Straddie Salute race and the Noosa Tri because I can’t do them if I am dead.
So I dutifully rocked up to the physio appointment ready to be cured but thoroughly believing that I wouldn’t be. It started with the usual pointless paperwork where I had to put circles around a picture of a man indicating where the pain would be if I were that man. No one looked at the picture so I don’t know why it was required.
My Physio, Jake, introduced himself in a very chipper manner and we spent about 10 minutes going over the various types of exercise I do and what causes my pain, at the end of which he said ‘you are obviously a triathlete, I am guessing’ and I puffed out my chest and said yes. This is the first time I have been called a triathlete by a stranger as far as I know. It was an exciting moment.
Jake shared a few stories of his own triathlon experiences, presumably to help me to trust that he knows what he was doing. It worked. He then watched me stand and move and walk, then I had to squat and hop. Hopping hurts so I didn’t have to do much of that. I started to believe I was about to be cured, when he put his hands on my hips and placed his thumb exactly where the pain starts, and said ‘this is where the pain starts, right?’ – it was like magic.
He then made me lay on a bed and basically tried to contort both of my legs in a variety of directions they were opposed to going to. It didn’t really hurt but I didn’t see how it was helping either. Jake made ‘concentrating face’ and kept asking questions about what felt different, but really it all felt the same.
Eventually Jake concluded that I have damaged the tendons at the top of my right leg, joining onto my hip. My right hip is also slightly rolled forward, which may be why I have damaged that one but not the left leg.
He also concluded that because he couldn’t make me cry by contorting my legs, the pain is only brought on by high-impact or heavy load exercise. IE running. He therefore banned me from running for at least a week until he can see me again, but he did promise that he could get me ready to run at Bribie.
So then he came up with a plan. After my workouts, I have to do 5 mins of rubbing the top of my leg in a strong smooth motion, to clear the swelling and activate the lymph nodes. I also have an exercise that I have to do twice a day ‘until fatigued’ which basically means lying on the floor and lifting my leg up and down repeatedly until I can’t do any more.
I also have to do some hopping and jumping in the pool (presumably the little pool, not the 50m pool which doesn’t have a shallow end) and keep on rolling on my foam roller.
Then Jake suggested we would also try some acupuncture or something in the future. When I didn’t react with shock or fear, he seemed pleased and decided to get some needles there and then. He rummaged through a cupboard in the corner of the room but declared that none of the ones in there were thick enough for his liking. I’m not joking but at the time I laughed a nervous kind of laugh. I mean, I can be brave about getting needles but if there is an option, I want the not-thick needles please.
Jake didn’t notice my sudden change of heart and disappeared for a few minutes, returning with a fresh box of neatly packaged thick needles. He asked if I wanted to see one and I politely declined. So then came the pep talk.
Jake explained that what he was about to do is not exactly acupuncture, but is referred to as ‘dry-needling’ which I thought sounded much worse really. Why emphasise the use of needles , when most people dislike needles? He said I should expect to feel a slight pin-prick, then a sudden cramp that would last for a split second and subside. I needed to try and stay relaxed if possible. I tried not to think too much into it. He also said that he had to advise that I may feel a little sleepy later this afternoon, but I haven’t noticed anything yet.
So he stuck the needle in and rummaged around a bit, and I felt the sudden cramp but it didn’t go away as quickly as he’d explained because he kept rummaging. So I burst out laughing instead. I couldn’t help it, I just laughed my head off for about 5 minutes. Apparently Jake had once experienced another patient who laughed in pain, but it was an 8 year old boy. I don’t think he judged me too harshly for my antics; he just kindly waited for me to calm down and stop.
After the needling and the the exercises and whatnot, Jake got me to lay on the bed again so that he could contort my legs some more. He reported that he was pleased with the results, and I must admit that I felt much stronger in the right leg when he told me to resist his pressure. So something must have helped. He wrote down all my instructions and sent me out to the receptionist to make an appointment for next week.
So how do I feel? Much the same I think, although maybe looser and a bit tender. The whole point of the needling was to tell my body that there is something that needs healing there by basically causing some more trauma, and to promote a bit of bleeding so that the blood can help the tendons heal (they don’t have a great big blood supply like muscles do)
I’ve booked an appointment for next week and I will follow all of my instructions to the T… because I don’t have many other options, but also because I think I have come around to a bit of physio. Everything Jake said made sense to me, and he seemed to understand exactly what I was talking about with my hip pain, and was able to pin-point my tendon and the affected areas just from my explanation. I was already a believer of acupuncture, and this dry-needling malarkey just seems to be a less Asian-inspired, more anatomical type of that.
Plus, I got charged 100 bucks for the privilege so I’d better follow through and get my money’s worth… So, keep your fingers crossed!