Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chronic Injuries: Big Toes and Slipped Discs

Another cold day in Philly has me dreaming of warmer temps! Supposedly it is going to warm up this weekend on Saturday and I am very anxious to get out and get a long run in! For tonight, it looks like I am going to be at the gym doing some cross training.  My husband and I attempted to do a run outside yesterday evening, but with the cold and dark, we had to end up cutting it shorter than we originally wanted.  Daylight Savings this Sunday should help with the light aspect, now if only we could consistently get some warm temps!

Unfortunately, when it is cold and icy, I have difficulty getting a lot of running in as I have trouble running on the treadmill.  I have two chronic injuries that are severely irritated from the pounding on treadmills, far more so than running outside on the roads and trails.  I think it is important to describe my injuries as they are chronic and can be detrimental to my training, and I'll probably refer to issues associated with them frequently! Any helpful comments or suggestions are definitely welcome if you also suffer from either of these injuries.

The first injury is a slipped disc in my L5 S1 that was caused by over-exertion on the stair stepper machine my freshman year in college.  The slipped disc causes sciatica in my left leg.  Sometimes, when I run too far or too fast, I have a sensation of my "back going out"  (best way I can describe it) and I will lose the ability to swing my left leg at the hip. I then get numbness in my leg and can no longer extend my leg forward in the running motion.  I can actually trip and fall if I attempt to keep moving when this happens.  It's hard to describe exactly what it feels like, as it is somewhat painful, but more so just a total lack of movement is what is the most prohibiting.  If I stop running and walk, the issue will cease and become less troubling.  When this happens, my left hamstring also becomes incredibly tight and painful, and has also caused me to have some chronic hamstring pain and tightness

I used to suffer from this far more; my first Broad Street was absolutely miserable and my time reflected it. By around mile 5, I was having difficulty running forward at all.  Afterwards, I could barely walk for a couple of days.  One of my co-workers pushed me to see a Chiropractor (something I had always been reluctant to do), but when I finally gave in I wished I had done it years before! I had tried physical therapy and even steroid shots into my spine, but nothing had worked previously.  My Chiropractor was able to help the alignment in my back and I have had a MUCH easier time controlling my back pain since I started seeing the Chiro.

I still am troubled by the sciatica, but I have definitely found it to be less troubling than in the past.  I need to make time to go see the Chiro more! I tend to wait to go in until it is troubling me again, instead of being pro-active.  I am definitely a fan of this NATURAL way to help my back though.  If anyone is wondering if they should try it, I would highly suggest it, as long as you can find a good, qualified Chiropractor that you can trust!  Let me know if you have any thoughts on sciatica, slipped discs, etc.

My second chronic injury is newer and something I am still trying to deal with on a day-to-day basis.  I am currently trying to train through some pain, and hoping I can keep it manageable.  I haven't ran since August, but the time off did NOT fix the issue.  What I am dealing with now is severe, chronic pain in my left big toe caused by bunions.  I have genetic bunions that I have irritated by years of running that have now lead to permanent pain in my big toe.

I first started experiencing the pain in June when I was training for the Oddyssey Half Marathon. When I was on a 12 mile training run I noticed that my left big toe was hurting incredibly bad. I had recently upgraded to the newest version of my Asics, so I thought it might be shoe related.  At the time I thought it would be manageable, and actually went online and ordered my previous years shoes in order to go back to what was working. My solution did not turn out to be the easy fix I had hoped, and the pain continued for the rest of the summer, until I finally decided to take a break in August.  During this time I also went to a podiatrist who informed me it was bio-mechanical issues in my foot (flat feet and bunions along with weird bone structure) and attempted a steroid shot (once again these shots do NOT seem to work on me--whether it be back or toe).  He also attempted some minor adjustments to my inserts.  Nothing helped, which is when I decided to take some time off and rest it (usually the cure for all running related injuries!)

When the doctor was unable to figure out a cure I decided to pursue some other options. Returning to the same shoe I had been using (just newer) had not worked.  I decided to try a new kind of shoe that allowed for more toe spread (bunions are irritated by a tight toe box).  I tried the Altra Zero Drop shoe that has a much wider than usual toe box.  They are also part of the minimalist shoe movement and had some fantastic reviews in various locations.  While I like the shoes and the space for my toe, I still had toe pain, PLUS the flatness bothered my foot and I began to have pain spreading all through my arches and across the bottom of my foot.  I now try to use them for walking the dogs and cross training though to give my feet room to breathe when I can! I would LOVE to hear if anyone else has tried these shoes!

The other strategy I tried is something I am still currently working with.  When reading a running magazine I discovered an advertisement for Correct Toes.  Correct Toes is an insert that you put in your toes that spreads your toes and is supposed to cure all kinds of ailments, particularly all the various issues I have with my toes and feet!  You are supposed to be able to wear them when running, but I found that it bothered my feet too much, not the spreading so much as just pain from the actual rubber in my toes.  I DO try to wear them every night and to sleep in.  I have tried to take pictures of my feet and see if they are improving, and I think I might be seeing a slight improvement in my right foot (the one not as bad as off).  Too soon to tell, but I am still hoping this works as it would be non-surgical and natural! Again, if you have experience or thoughts on these PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I would love, love, love some feedback!

Ok, this entry turned out to be WAY longer than I planned, but now you have a history of my chronic injuries and I won't have to explain in such detail again in the future ha!  I'm hoping for the best when I do my 6 mile run this weekend, as it will be the longest I've run since the 1/2 marathon due to my toe pain. I'm hoping I can make this work somehow and get back to running! Again, please, please, please let me know if you have any thoughts on either injury...particularly the toe issue! I would love some feedback or suggestions!

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