Humility, Hurting, and Healing: Dealing with Injury

IT Band Syndrome Injury Diagram

Humbly, I must first apologize

I made a commitment to posting regular blogs on here regarding my progress towards my ambitious goal to run 2017 miles this calendar year. I recently got a nagging injury that sidelined my progress and I stopped posting. As of today, my last post was just over three weeks ago. Anyone who was following my progress has probably considered that I’ve given up. Abandoned this project. I have not, but I have disappointed myself with that pause. I am very sorry.

No Excuses

At the end of my first week, I ran 15 miles on a small indoor track. In the process, I started down an injurious path. I pushed myself through the last 20 or so laps that day despite a pain growing in my right knee. Maybe I was pushing too many miles too quickly. Perhaps it was the noticeable inclination of the turns on the track. Either way, my long beaten shoes were a factor. I didn’t pay attention to what my body was telling me and pushed it in bad ways.

I followed that week with a fairly steady schedule, but whenever I had particularly cold runs, that pain would creep back, and I would try to ignore it. Finally, around the first week of February, I had two excruciating and short runs that was more than I could ignore. My right leg had what I’ve internet-diagnosed as IT Band Syndrome.

Pains Make No Gains

Imagine, if you would, spilling a pot of boiling water on the outside edge of your leg. That is effectively flared up IT Band Syndrome. The tendon that runs down the outside of the leg and connects the muscle groups of the thigh with the tibia just below the knee is the IT Band. When things go wrong that band of tendon can rub back and forth over the bony structures of the joint causing internal friction and inflammation of all the tissues in the area. The joint doesn’t hurt, or click, but the area just on the outside of the joint, and running up the leg, burns.

What’s more is that most tendons stretch well and can be loosened this way. The IT Band is a resilient sucker though. Because of it’s location, it is difficult to find movements that actually stretch it, and it is a strong powerhouse of a tendon capable of withstanding a lot of force without deforming. This causes IT Band Syndrome to commonly be a lingering and sidelining injury, ending running careers.

Searching for Solutions

After my excruciating experiences, I decided to try resting the injury, but that would mean no running whatsoever. When I had just posted an article about taking control by running I must relinquish that control. There were other factors going on in my life as well and between them all, I was stuck in something of a dark rut. Cold weather, injury, hectic real and mental life. These all pushed me back into bed at every opportunity.

I look for help, but my options are limited. For reasons I won’t get into, a physician isn’t available to help me, so I am left to my own devices. I purchased new shoes and tried to run in them with mixed results. spent two weeks hobbling around with a knee brace half the time, hoping it would help. Finally, I expressed my vexation on Facebook to friends and family, and finally got sent in a direction that my previous research had not yielded.

Push It, Push It Real Good

My cousin, Sam, pointed me to this Youtube video, which explained some of the mechanical functions of the IT Band. While I couldn’t quite manage the movement he demonstrates in the video, the mechanics gave me an idea. In the video, he describes how the muscles from the hip down to the knee are all pulling on the IT Band in various ways. Tightness in the hip and glutes can pull on the whole system and make the tendon too tight, leading to the injury. Thus the answer seemed straight forward enough: beat the holy hell out of those muscles.

So, I did. As best I could, I administered massage and pushed on the muscles of my right leg until I was sore in arms and leg for a whole new set of reasons. As I tried to study my pain and lamented my lack of progress in running, I noticed another pattern that emerged: my pain flared on frigid days. On more tepid and comfortable days, I could go much further and at a much better pace.

Recovery? Seems it.

While I’ve been admittedly wallowing and frustrated, I’ve not given up on my goal. I will just need to redouble my effort, reevaluate my plan, and recommit to the parts I let languish. Such as this blog. It pains me to let people down, and I also expect a lot out of myself. It is not acceptable to me to not meet the commitment of providing thoughtful and consistent content here chronicling my journey. Likewise, I found resting a tough pill to swallow, even if it was for the right reasons. There is no excuse that would satisfy me.

As of today, I think I’ve made the majority of my recovery. I was able to do over 11 miles today and plan a long run in what promises to be beautiful weather on Friday. I will need to be careful to work around any cold snaps that this winter and spring still has left for me. Additionally, I need to continue the therapeutic muscle releasing massages to head off bad flare ups of the IT Band pain again.

But, in the end, I think I’m back.