Round Two: Shock Therapy?

I depend on others around me for motivation. They include my friends, people at my gym, friends on Facebook, strangers on Twitter, fellow runners in my neighborhood, music, even stories on tv or in magazines. When I read about their accomplishments, it motivates me to push myself to reach my goals. Then there's also the competitive spirit in me that makes me want to beat what they did; or at least go all out to trying! (Nothing personal against anyone, just me daring me). But right now hearing how my friends run 14 miles, just because they can; or reading about someone running a time I used to be able to run, while being happy for them, frustrates me.

After eight weeks of physical therapy and almost six weeks of taking it easy (this is relative, I know), I am still not 100%. Don't get me wrong, my physical therapy was successful in getting me to the point where I could run - and finish - the Seattle RnR Half-Marathon. And also let me clarify that I can still run; just not without the dull pain in my left leg that seems to constantly move around and never seems to go away. I am limited to shorter distances and slower times, as evident three weeks ago when I ran 8 miles in 82 minutes. I knew the pace was too fast but I just couldn't make myself slow down. I suffered after that run and have limited myself to 3-6 miles since.

In a few weeks, I'm scheduled to start training for the December Vegas RnR Half . I want to run it pain-free so I decided that I need to get a handle on this thing once and for all. Actually, what really prompted me to revisit the problem is this article I read in Runners World called, "The Big Hurt" by Benjamin Cheevers. After having the same symptoms I am having, he was diagnosed with Piriformis Syndrome aka "a pain in the butt." Literally.


Essentially, its what happens when the piriformis muscle gets tangled with the sciatic nerve. And since the sciatic nerve runs down the back of your leg, pain can occur in a number of areas, including the hamstring. Well of course, I was convinced that I had it. My pain is essentially in the area where my left hip meets the glute muscle. The two things that relieve the pain are my infamous theracane and rolling on a medicine ball (a tip I got from my friend and marathon runner Yvette). This is not the big exercise ball, but the little hard ball that comes in various weights. I was using a foam roller but its too soft to get to the muscle. Anyway, after I read the article, I ripped it out of the magazine and have been carrying it around with me ever since. I scheduled an appointment with my sports medicine doctor that took place last Friday.

Well prior to that appointment, I had met with my primary care physician last Tuesday about a separate issue (what can I say, I'm a mess). She saw that I was scheduled to meet with my sports medicine dr and asked me what it was about. When I told her that I believed I had Piriformis Syndrome she basically told me that I probably did and I should just give up running altogether, something she herself had done a few years earlier (for different reasons). Externally I nodded and listened to what she had to say, yet internally I thought, "I'm not a quitter, I'm not going to do that!" I couldn't believe she said that to me without even examining me. Don't get me wrong, she's a good PCP, but her word is not going to be the end-all-be-all to all of this for me. I'll research every possible option before I accept that I can't run anymore.

So when Friday came along, I met with my sports medicine dr and told her what I was still experiencing and what I thought my diagnosis was. As she examined me, she agreed that Piriformis Syndrome was a very plausible diagnosis, but then she noticed a different in my hips - one was higher than the other one. Essentially, she came to the conclusion that my pelvis is misaligned which is causing all kinds of problems in my hip, hammy and glute. I braced myself because I didn't want her to tell me to just stop running. Thankfully she didn't. Instead, she was really positive and said I had come a long way since I last saw her (which I really had) and that there's just a few more things that need tweaking. Then she left the room.

When she came back she had this device thing on a cart. I asked her what it was and she announced that she was going to do a shock therapy on me. Well I laid there, shocked, high blood pressure rising, thinking - WTH?!? She was blocking the door so couldn't bolt out of the room, although the thought did cross my mind. She must have seen the panicked look on my face because she laughed and said it wasn't going to hurt, it would just feel weird. And it did. It was like getting an ultrasound but the machine sounded like a jackhammer. Anyway, she did three rounds of it and while it didn't hurt, it got pretty intense. Scared me a little. I don't know if it helped or not, but I think I've run with a little less pain since then. Who knows, maybe its my mind believing that it worked.

The good news is, she said that I could continue with my running, swimming, weights and yoga. There was no need to change or cut-back on any of my activities, just not to go overboard. Well I learned my lesson about going overboard and wasn't going to do that again. If there's one lesson I learned through this whole experience is to listen to my body, so I pretty much know what my limits are right now. And she said my stretching, physical therapy exercises and theracane/medicine ball treatments were all the right things to do. "You know how to take care of yourself" she said.

The bad news is, she ordered another six weeks of physical therapy, but this time with a specific treatment of "muscle energy technique." I have no idea what that is but I guess I'll soon find out. Apparently only two sports clinics in my area offer this treatment, so I have to go with one of the clinics she specifically recommended.

So stay tuned, the saga continues...first PT appointment is a week from today.

Here's some autographed pictures hanging in the sports medicine clinic:

Kara Goucher


Steve Young

Jerry Rice