Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stop Stressing, It's Not A Fracture

Every time I write a blog that's health related, I inevitably get a couple of private emails or comments from folks in the health care industry, and even doctors, debunking what I've theorized or shared.  So I fully embrace that possibility with today's post, because as you've gathered by now ... I'm not a doctor.  But it occurred to me on my hill workout this morning that pretty much 100% of the "running injuries" I've struggle with over the years (which are very minimal, knock on wood) have been related solely to muscle tightness, and nothing else ... NOTHING!

I think of myself as a fairly tough guy.  I mean, of course I'm not as "tough" as any of the Pillsbury Dough Boys I work with who played high school football a hundred years ago, thus qualifying them for "bad-ass status", and "know everything about all sports" for the rest of their lives ... but I get by. Sarcasm.  But my wife will attest that I typically respond to any new pain from running like Fred Sanford ... "Oh no, THIS is the big one ... I'm coming Elizabeth!"   But then usually the pain subsides and I'm fine for another 2,000 miles or so.

Take this week for example.  I had a really good long run on Saturday, but during the two recover miles, the top of my left foot starting hurting directly behind the big toe.  I hurt with every foot strike.  It hurt so much it made me limp, and eventually stop a couple of times.  The pain remained throughout the day, and even hurt the next morning when I woke up.   Like a dummy, of course I tried running on it again for a recovery run, and it really flared up.  I stopped my recovery run after about 3 miles and walked back home, with the thing killing me with every step.  My immediate self diagnosis ... I of course had a stress fracture!  Which was the perfectly logical and rational conclusion I should have come to considering I've NEVER had a broken bone of any kind.  Again sarcasm.

So I did what I always do when the latest ache and pain shows up ... I began looking at muscle diagrams of the legs on the internet.  I immediately noticed that many of the calf and "shin" muscles were directly connected to the area that was giving me trouble.  So, I began stretching the area and rolling & massaging them out.   And wouldn't you know it ... the area felt great today!  Just like that, my "stress fracture" was gone!

I don't mean to make light of actual stress fractures and structural damage ... of course they are real and cause a lot of runners a lot of problems.  And of course, I WOULD NOT do what I do - if you feel like there's an issue, go see your doctor.  But so far it's just been my experience that area reflecting the pain is typically not the area causing the pain.  It's usually caused from tightness from a larger muscle pulling on the area and creating an issue.  That of course way over simplifies it, but whether it's been IT Band, upper hamstring, groin, knee or heel pain - I've always been able to isolate the connecting muscle or muscle group and get myself back to normal.

So anyway, once again I freaked out over some running pain for nothing.  Today's hill workout went well, and I should be good for a few more strides.  And with that, let the "Jim, you know you're a little careless with your medical advice" begin.  Have a great week!
... be great today!

11 comments:

  1. I happen to love your medical advice, because I agree with it 100%!! The more I run, and the more I work with other runners, the more I am convinced that all injuries are incurred due to a combination of tight muscles and weak muscles! My mantra for everyone is, "When in doubt, roll it out!" :)
    So glad you're not fractured!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bought one of those hard "tire-tread" rollers a while back Pahla, and it's done wonders!

      Delete
  2. It's totally normal to freak out over running pain. And then it's totally normal to diagnose yourself with the worst-case-scenario. But why you didn't think of an osteosarcoma is beyond me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ya know, it didn't even cross my mind Char?

      Delete
  3. "Every time I write a blog that's health related, I inevitably get a couple of private emails or comments from folks in the health care industry, and even doctors, debunking what I've theorized or shared."
    By which you mean me.
    Contrary to your post, every time I feel the slightest niggle, it's a fracture. Gosh darn it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well yeah sometimes, but I don't feel like you've ever scolded me Grace - I've been "put in time out" by a few doctors - ha. Ya know, when my foot started hurting and I really thought I had a stress fracture, I started thinking of all the runners who had them and you actually crossed my mind - I thought I had finally joined the masses.

      Delete
  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm very lucky with injuries because I run so slow and don't do repeats or speed work at all. I do get some niggles and pains from long distances and long hours on the trails sometimes but mostly I just ignore it and don't mention it on my blog. We know our bodies the best and we certainly know when to speak to a doctor or whatever we feel we need. But I do like to sometimes get people in a panic for me over nothing :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting post - I'll keep that in mind and try to foam roll more often if I seem to have an injury flare up. I did have a stress reaction/fracture in my right leg back in 2011, and it felt like pressure or tingling in the area during or after activity. Recently I think I had been overdoing it a bit on training runs and started to feel a bit of pain in the same area, I dialed back the run intensity and it seems like it went away. But I'll try to foam roll more often now.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The foam roller has become my best running friend in the world. Oh, the pain it has saved me! Glad to see it is working for you too.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good job rolling out the tightness. The same thing happened to me in my left calf, only I did not roll it out, and continued not rolling it, and then I DID end up with a stress fracture, which my doctor & PT said was most likely caused by not-dealt-with muscle tightness.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by ... your comment's always welcome!