I've been going to Sport and Spine on the East side for a couple of months now. I had to go to PT a few years ago with my torn tendon and that was okay, but I wasn't impressed. Progress was minimal and we did the exact same thing every time...even though I wasn't making much progress. This time has been completely different though.
I've been making great progress and we've been trying a lot of different things. As soon as it seems I'm not responding anymore, Joe (my PT) mixes things up. Initially we focused on massage and foam rolling to try and get my muscles to loosen up. They were locked up all the way down my glute, hamstring and especially my left calf. The muscles were so tight I couldn't bend over to lift the toilet seat without bending my knees. The massage and foam rolling hurt, but after a couple of weeks things started to loosen up and my mobility began to return.
Then we moved on to dry needling and continued foam rolling, massage, etc. At this point I was able to ride again but wasn't swimming or running and I still had numbness all the way down my leg. I wasn't limping anymore and was getting around a lot better. I had lost strength in my left calf so I wasn't walking with my normal gait yet, but there was big improvement.
Joe believed a good part of my problem was my piriformis muscle pinching my sciatic nerve. We don't know if that was caused by my herniated disc or not (chicken and the egg) but that was the focus of most of my PT. The dry needling was interesting, and in a strange way I enjoyed it, but it wasn't very effective for me. I only did a couple of sessions and then we moved on to Astym (similar to Graston, but not as harsh). Astym was the magic bullet.
With Astym, they take plastic tools and scrape the area they're treating. For me, that was my left leg and foot. The thinking behind Astym is that the scraping creates micro-trauma under the skin and your body then sends blood to that area to heal. So it stimulates blood flow which speeds up healing.
It only took a few sessions of Astym and the numbness began to disappear. At this point, I was cycling but hadn't been swimming or running in 2 months. My PT wanted me to go to the pool to see if I could handle it. That went well, so swimming was added to my cycling. 2/3 of the way there.
We continued with massage, foam rolling, Astym and now some strengthening work to try to regain the strength I lost in my left leg, especially my left calf. He wanted me to go aqua jogging to start working on the running motion and to see how my body handled that without the pounding of real running. So, on a Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I went for my first run. Ten minutes...outdoors. He said aqua jogging, but it was raining out so I figured that was close enough.
Wow...that was rough. Ten minutes....ten ugly minutes. My form was sloppy and my left leg was stomping the ground flat footed like I had no control over it. I was sure I was running with a limp but Courtney said I didn't look quite that bad. Fitness was hovering right around zero. I ran an easy pace, but it was far from easy. The only hill I had to climb was brutal. I was huffing and puffing like I was on day 1 of a couch to 5K program. Two months was my longest break from running since I started in late 2007. I couldn't believe how much fitness I'd lost.
I survived the run with no issues, other than horrible form and zero fitness. My disc/piriformis handled it well...although my left calf was extremely sore for 4 or 5 days after this. Then I ran again. Still ugly...still very unfit...but a little progress. When the pain in my calf went away, I ran again.
Today, the numbness is gone and my strength is returning. I'm swimming, cycling and running, although running is still a bit limited. My form is improving, but still has a ways to go. This week I will run 3 times for 30 minutes each time. There's an Alter-G treadmill at the West side location of Sport and Spine which I may try to use to get in a few more miles...and because I think they're interesting and would love to try one out.
So that's where I'm at. Unfit but recovering and back to triathlon training...and registered for the Puerto Rico 70.3. :)
13 weeks til race day. I have my work cut out for me.