Monday, 24 June 2013

Breathe in, breathe out

Three weeks ago, I came down with a cold, complete with raging sore throat and mega-sneezing.  This evolved into a cough that was so ferocious that Bassman and the cats relegated themselves to the second bedroom for five days in an effort to find a bit of peace.  During one of the extended coughing spasms towards the end of the second week, I felt something pop in my left mid-chest.  Ouch.  Initially, I thought that I had just bruised myself with the underwire from my bra but the pain didn't get any better.  In fact, it got worse.

And then, on Friday night, my breathing started to become constricted.  Now, I am afraid of many things.  Spiders.  The dark.  Axe murderers.  Cows.  Dogs that aren't on their leads.  The lights going off during an unexpected power cut at night (because then there's both the dark and axe murderers).  But my biggest, biggest fear is of not being able to breathe.  I don't know where this stems from; I assume that it's yet another irrational fear that has no basis in reality (unlike a fear of axe murderers, for example), but it freaks me out.

I bravely managed to hold on until today, when a 9am phone call (and another phone call at 10.20 as part of my GP surgery's new triage system - apparently chest pain and difficulty breathing no longer count as an emergency) finagled me an appointment at 11.45 with the practice nurse.  The first part of her exam focused on the chest pain.  After her first light touches produced giggles but nothing else, she dug her fingers into my ribs; once she peeled me off the ceiling and the reverberations from my shriek of pain died away, she diagnosed me as having either a cracked or bruised rib (more likely cracked) from the coughing.

The second part of the exam assessed my breathing and saw me blowing into a peak flow metre, with the result being well below what would be expected for someone of my age and fitness level.  I blew into it a second and then a third time, increasing the reading a bit each time, but when I tried to do it a fourth time, the nurse took it from me with a comment of, 'You're certainly not competitive, are you?'  She diagnosed me as having bronchoconstriction - not asthma, because I don't have the wheezing and mucous build up of asthma - and gave me a trial of salbutamol (a bronchodilator).

I had to wait for 15 minutes in the waiting room to see if the salbutamol had any effect, during which I read and enjoyed Saga Magazine (and felt very old).  My breathing had indeed eased a bit by the end of the 15 minutes, so I left with a prescription for an inhaler and instructions to listen to my body, by which the nurse meant no running, no cardio at the gym, and no upper body weights until I 'feel better,' whatever that means.

I fear that the Aviemore Half Marathon is not going to happen for me this year, but there are still a couple of weeks left before I have to make that decision.  All that I can do is see how it goes and look after myself.  Which is why, 20 minutes after leaving the surgery, I was leaving the Cromarty Bakery with a selection of lovely biscuits.  Medicinal support takes many forms.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The return of Claudio

I went for my third test run on Monday.  I kept it at 3 miles and intended to do a run/walk again, but ended up walking only when the discomfort verged into pain as I felt better with more extended (and faster) periods of running.  Overall, the run  itself didn't feel terrible.

But then the run ended and, by the time I had walked the 5 minutes back to the house, my entire quad had seized up and I had shooting pains in my hip.  Stretching didn't help, but sitting in a cold bath did.  However, by evening, I was limping and was finding the stairs a struggle.  SO demoralised.

With Adam's 'We'll have to Pursue Other Options if things get worse' preying on my mind, I decided to be proactive and fired off an email to Claudio the Osteopath/Physio whom I saw last year after my calf blew up.  He phoned me the next morning and offered me an appointment for later that day, which I jumped at.  Metaphorically, of course.  Because jumping for real hurts.

Claudio did his usual thorough assessment and, as usual, tutted at how tight my neck and shoulders are.  He had me walk around the treatment room a couple of times and made his diagnosis.  Just as Adam and Mr Rocktape Physioman have said, the culprit is an extremely tight psoas (one of the hip flexors) combined with a very tight but very weak piriformis (one of the gluteus muscles).  Unlike Adam and Mr Rocktape, Claudio felt that the piriformis was the real problem and that this was causing problems with the psoas by making it work overtime to stabilise my hip, as well as by pulling my hip out of alignment.  Whatever.  Just fix me, please.

Yes.  This hurts.
You might remember that Mr Rocktape told me that there are two psoas releases:  the one that he did and a deeper, more painful one.  Well, Claudio carried out the more painful one.  I didn't even have the breath to whimper.  And then he proceeded to variously stretch, massage, manipulate, and/or pop my hips, glutes, psoas, quad, adductor, and lower back.  By the end of this, my pain level had decreased and my hips were working more appropriately.

Claudio showed me some new stretches for my glutes, one of which got me into such a tangle that I literally couldn't move, resulting in a look of disbelief from Claudio and a statement of, 'This is much too advanced for you.'  I couldn't even be insulted because he was right.  With a scaled-down version of the stretch agreed upon, I now have three new stretches to add into my daily routine.  I'm also meant to ice my glutes three times/day (frozen peas down the back of my trousers - such a good look) and refrain from running at least until the weekend so as to give my body a chance to settle down from the treatment.

Claudio is optimistic that this will work.  If it doesn't, then we will have to Pursue Other Options. 

And no, I still don't want to know what those are.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Still being tested

I took myself out for the second test run yesterday.  Three days had passed since the first test run and my aches and pains were much diminished, so it seemed safe to give it another go.  I was SENSIBLE and did a thorough warm-up and planned on doing a proper run/walk (2 minutes run/30 seconds walk) to ease my legs back into being used.  What could go wrong, right?

Welcome back, shooting pains into my hip joint.  Welcome back, stiff and sore hip flexors.  Welcome back, discomfort with every stride.  The only positive thing to say is that it was discomfort, not pain, although it certainly flirted with the pain/discomfort threshold.  I got back to the house and did my stretches, which didn't help with the hip pain.  Driving was uncomfortable as was sitting, and I fidgeted through five hours of work meetings because I couldn't find a way to sit that didn't make my hip hurt.  Not happy.  Not happy at all.

My hip flexors are still stiff and sore today and my hip is still twinging sharply if I put sudden weight on it but, glass half-full person that I am, I'm pleased to note that my calves and hamstrings coped well with yesterday's run and no longer feel overly stressed.  I enlisted Bassman's help with my stretching in an attempt to replicate the psoas release that Mr Rocktape Physio did at the VLM Expo.  I'm not sure that we got it exactly right, but there did seem to be a bit more flexibility in my psoas at the end (and, correspondingly, less pain in my hip).  So, that'll definitely be more of that then!

I'm not giving up just yet.  I figure it'll take at least two weeks for my legs to start to cooperate again and, as long as the pain doesn't get any worse, I'll carry on and see what happens.  According to Adam, though, if it does get worse, it will be time to 'PURSUE OTHER OPTIONS.'  Given that he muttered this darkly as I was leaving the therapy room, I didn't ask what he meant by it.

I don't really want to know.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A testing time

Following two weeks of pain-free walking and one week of pain-free cardio at the gym, I decided that last Thursday would be the day for my test run.  Thursday came, and Thursday went.  So did Friday and Saturday.  I had to admit to myself that I was terrified of running again.  Thoughts of re-injury,  potential new injuries, and recollections of not-nearly-far-enough-in-the-past pain kept my feet firmly tucked under me on the sofa.

Something had to be done.  Cathy has her Aviemore Half Marathon training schedule, including several test HMs along the way, already organised and, while I am not competitive (I'll pause here for the laughter to die down), I could see myself being left behind literally and figuratively if I didn't get myself moving soon.  I turned to Mr Google for support.  Typing in 'afraid to start running after injury' led me to the advice that Julie the Physio gave me after my calf injury last year (as well as to more horror stories about stress fractures, which I read with great apprehension).  Before you run, you need to be able to fully weight bear on the injured leg.  So Saturday found me doing a series of double- and single-legged jumps and hops in the garden.  No pain, none at all.  And since the only way to find out if you're ready to run again is to actually run, I FINALLY did my test run on Sunday.
My hops weren't quite this enthusiastic.

I left the Garmin at home and ran at a pace that felt easy.  The sun was shining, the roads were quiet, and I felt happy.  I was conscious that my hip flexor was a bit stiff and it did twinge several times, but a very brief walk each time this happened quickly sorted it out.  It didn't feel any different than I would have expected to feel after 6 weeks of not running.  I did 3 miles and happily could have gone further.

Good thing that I didn't.  I spent the rest of the day with increasingly sore hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves.  Limp limp limp.  Ouch ouch ouch.  Panic panic panic.

I had an appointment with Adam on Monday and shared my fears that I had done myself irreparable damage.  He was again the VOICE OF SENSIBILITY and reassured me (without snickering too much at my over-reaction) that this was normal soreness and, yes, maybe I should have done a run/walk instead of only walking when I twinged but no damage was done.  And I got a lecture about treating shorter runs as seriously as I treat longer runs (i.e. have a cold bath, use the arnica cream, wear the compression leggings, keep doing my stretches).  But, basically,  I am FINE. 

So the plan is to keep on running.  Stick to 3 mile runs for this week and run/walk them.  Next week can be 3, 4, and 5 miles.  And then I can decide whether I want to stick at those distances for a couple of weeks so that I can work on my speed or stay slow and steady while I keep increasing the distance.

I'm not sure when the next test run will be - maybe not until Friday due to work commitments.  I'm already looking forward to it.