Whatever It Takes

A few months ago, I hoped to be running again by mid-June.  As good luck (and a lot of patience) allowed, my physiotherapist cleared me to start running slowly.  “Run for mechanics,” he said, “not for fitness.”  He was telling me not to push myself and to just get use to the motion of running again.

Back At It!

My first run was 2 miles at a 9:30 pace.  Within two weeks, I was averaging 3 miles just below an 8:30 pace and, just recently, I have been running up to 4 miles with my average pace around 7:50 per mile and a few miles hovering around 7:40.  On paper, everything looks great.  I’m running more and I am running faster – and I am being careful not to push myself; I’m running at a “feel good” pace.  My gait feels good, my hips feel straight, and I feel strong.  But the back of my leg just doesn’t feel right.

As the saying goes “Nobody knows your body better than you” and I can tell that I am still not “fixed.”  In April, Dr. Bentley (the hip specialist) wanted me to have my pelvis realigned through  physiotherapy  and it has definitely helped me.  But I still have a tightness at the top of my hamstring, close to the tear where the hamstring meets the ischial tuberosity.  Nothing feels wrong, so to speak, but it still doesn’t feel right.  I feel like Tammy the Hamstring is lurking at the door, waiting to break in and turn my house upside down.   After all of the rest, muscle work, rebuilding, realigning and time I have invested in my recovery, I am ready to do whatever it takes to keep her locked out.

Ready for some time off to heal some more.

I went over my concerns with Dr. Bentley and we decided that a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection is the next step for me.  I have spent months reading about PRP treatments  and there is not a lot of  evidence to support its effectiveness.  I have spoken with two people who had it done: one said it made things worse, and the other said it didn’t really help.  But there is a lot of research that supports PRP therapy.  My GP, sports med doctor, chiropractor and 2 different physiotherapists all feel that this is a good route for me to follow; when I have a team of professionals who are rallying a PRP injection, I am going to listen.  I really have nothing to lose.

Last night, a lady I know told me of a friend who had a PRP injection done.  “Her text right after was full of delightful words,” she said, “but she’s finding that it’s helping.”  That was the message that I needed – something positive, something to affirm that I am on the right path.  I am ready for the pain and I can deal with a bit of time off – whatever it takes to keep me running and let me keep chasing my dreams.

Looking for My Pony

Shell-shocked.  There is really no other word to describe my reaction after finally seeing the hip specialist in Hamilton.   I waited for 3 months to get to the bottom of what was going on with my hamstring – a tear at the insertion of the ischial tuberosity.  I waited another three months for a consultation with Dr. Bentley, whom I thought was going to prescribe platelet-rich plasma therapy to strengthen the tendon. I got more and more excited as the days to that appointment got closer; I felt like a 6 year old hoping to find her pony on Christmas morning.  But I left his office feeling dejected.  There was no pony waiting for me, not even a stuffed toy that could act as a substitute. Instead, I left with a piece of paper: a prescription for more physiotherapy.

During the examination, Dr. Bentley commented, “I don’t think you need an injection.  It won’t help you.  I think there is something else going on.”  Like most runners who have been off longer than they want to be and are desperate for answers and healing, I tried to pry more details out of him.  “Let’s finish the examination.   Then we can talk.”   But the words “won’t help you” kept my mind spinning.  So I am that one in ten who PRP injections aren’t suitable for?  I wasted  all of this time waiting for nothing?  Is there no hope of recovery?  Will I ever run again?

During our debrief, Dr. Bentley explained that my pelvis is not aligned properly.  I have an anterior pelvic tilt, meaning that my right hip sits forward; in doing so, the right hamstring is stretched and that, he believes, it the root of my problem.   This also explains the occasional sciatica discomfort that I get, my tight hip flexors and, most visually obvious, the right leg swing when I run.  The treatment, Dr. Bentley said, is pelvis realignment through physiotherapy, and he suggested 10 treatments would correct the problem.  “Once a week?” I asked.  “Oh no,” he said.  “You need twice a week.”  Between his words, I imagined hearing “Your pelvis is that messed up.”

“And what if this doesn’t help?” I asked.   After all, I have gone through the rounds of chiropractic care, physiotherapy  and worked with an osteopath, yet I am still considered injured.   Dr. Bentley told me to book another appointment if I felt that the treatments don’t  help.

It’s taken me almost a month to emotionally recover from his diagnosis and recommendations for treatment.  I am angry that I had to wait so long to get to the root, or what seems to be the root, of the problem.  I am frustrated that I have had to go to yet another physiotherapist, one who specializes in pelvic realignment, and explain the events of the past 9 months.   And I am confused as to why he wouldn’t want to strengthen the tendon when it is going to remain a “less than 50% tear” for the rest of my life (since tendons don’t repair), especially with osteoporosis-arthritis showing in January’s MRI.  But, as with all other wounds, time heals and we move on.

On Wednesday, I am starting my fourth week of treatments.  Some days, I leave feeling optimistic and ready to start running again; other days, I leave feeling frustrated and wonder whether this will, in fact, let me return to running.   There have been good days and bad, laughter and tears, and longing….a longing for good news, a wish for running health….and hope to find that pony with a pink ribbon around its neck.