Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Detective Work

I had planned on chickening out on the Thanksgiving morning Great Gobbler 5k in Nashua, but woke up and decided to endure it as I haven't raced a full race since last years Great Gobbler ( I did do a leg in the Mill Cities Relay last December and did the first loop of a snowshoe race -2.5 miles last January).  It didn't go well, but it went as expected. I set an all-time personal worst over the 5k distance. I was huffing and puffing, but my stride was way off and was very discouraging to realize how far out of shape I now am. The only good thing was that I looked at all the results printed from previous editions of the race on the side of the shed and realized I have raced in all editions of this race.  It is now my only annual racing streak left. Listing the results show a huge decline in recent years in my times. I hope it goes on the upswing starting next year as I don't like running like a turkey!

Great Gobbler race results:
2003 19:59 16th originally called a Nashua High School Alumni race.
2004 19:38 15th
2005 19:19  7th  (Awesome snowstorm during the race!)
2006 18:16  13th
2007 18:09  18th
2008  20:10 28th
2009 20:46 31st
2010 22:00 77th  (off the fumes of summer training)
2011 24:45 170th (Ouch- even got passed by a guy dresses as a turkey!)

Last week I only ran twice: this race and 8 miles on Saturday. My body isn't working right, so I don't feel like running.

I know something is off with my body and I am still working on figuring it out. The last few days have been helpful. I had an MRI for my lower back about 10 days ago. Yesterday, I went for the result. I was expecting to hear something about my disks and nerve problems. I was stunned when I was told my back looks really good. I have had left lower back problems since the mid 1980s so this was a weird result. It is good news to have a good back, but what next?

The following is more to clarify my current thinking and keeping it for future reference, so don't bother to read if you have even gotten this far. I tell my students that they should enjoy solving math problems as it is like detective work and they are going to be solving problems all their lives. I feel like I have spent half a life trying to solve the problem of my back and hip. So it is back to asking questions and looking for answers.

I was absolutely floored that my back looked fine and I realised that I forgot to ask more probing questions about the MRI results. They did sign me up for another appointment with another doctor for the week before Christmas. This is another physiatrist at The Spine Center in Newton-Wellesley. This doctor will be looking more a musculoskeletal problems. I was told they made look to do things like trigger-point injections if they find a problem. I would guess they they might find a problem in the piriformis area.

I had a couple of valuable internet interactions over the weekend that were very pertinent and thought provoking. The limiting factor in my running now is my left foot/ankle "tibial torsion" or rotation outwards. The Gait Guys commented on this in 2010 for me- although their response was on their previous website and is now gone. My foot seems to be stuck and angling out more, the left side of my knee is also "stuck" and has a twisty feel to it, and because of this my femur doesn't feel right in my hip (where I was operated on), and my lower back gets tight. I have been stuck in this position for over a month now and nothing I do gets me out of it.  The Gait Guys had a post last week on an external rotation in the foot. I couldn't answer on their blog, but I did have a Facebook conversation with them on this post. It was an interesting post as the externally rotated foot was seen as a "brain issue" where the brain maps out what is the best position in space for a body part to work in it's perceived "best position".

It is quite possible and reasonable to assume that a motor pattern is a natural mechanism for joint and multi-joint protection. Consciously trying to alter a motor pattern is likely to drive an improper pattern or one that is deemed unstable by the brain.

Scenario: client has right foot spun externally into the frontal plane by 15 degrees more than the opposite side.

In this scenario, this could be the reason why merely attempting to turn inwards a right foot that has drifted its way in time outwards does not hold even though it is clearly a deviation from symmetry. It is likely the fact that the brain, in such a scenario, has calculated that there is not sufficient stability in a more neutral symmetrical foot progression angle and thus has found the necessary stability in a more turned out position. As we have always said, subconsciously turning the foot outwards helps to cheat into the frontal plane, likely because that plane is less stable with a neutral foot and with the foot “kickstand” turned out, stability is achieved. Thus, engaging the foot better in that plane gives the brain and body the perceived and actual stability that it feels it needs to more naturally provide joint or multi-joint stability. (read more)

So I wanted to know "what to do about this"... and I was told firstly that,
"The labral tear does not surprise us and the "wanting to turn the foot out more" is most likely a compensation to avoid internal rotation of the hip and impinging on a labrum that isn't there. The fix depends on the etiology: does it start at the foot or is it from above down?"
Ahh, the question I have been asking for years! Their suggestion for me was to visit Tom Michaud who is a chiropractor in Newton and who has worked on many runners including those of international stature. It seems Tom Michaud just published a new and well-received book this year called Human Locomotion.

In the course of a year, more than 1.9 million runners will fracture at least one bone and approximately 50% will suffer some form of overuse injury that prevents them from running. Despite the widespread prevalence of gait-related injuries, the majority of health care practitioners continue to rely on outdated and ineffective treatment protocols emphasizing passive interventions, such as anti-inflammatory medications and rest.

If you start here and forward ahead to pages 8-9, that is a picture that pretty much looks like how my left leg works. The book is $100 and is written for doctors, so it is not something I would buy, but the parts online sure look interesting as it addresses abnormal gaits and even has a section on labral tears. Do I think this guy could look at the whole picture of what my body is doing? I sure do. So I called to set up an appointment. His office is just down the road from the Newton-Wellesley Hospital where I had my hip surgery and where I am going now to their Spine Center. I got a call into his office yesterday. He doesn't take my insurance, which stinks, but still I wanted an appointment. Seems he is a busy guy. I got the first available appointment. It is for April 19, 2012. Well. that is a bit of a wait!

This weekend I saw another interesting video on the piriformis. I guess since I don't have a back or nerve problem, according to my MRI, that this video is even more important, as I still have an extremely tight or knotted piriformis that can be aggravated by running. I left this comment on the site, because the doctor talks about a link between the piriformis and a foot turning out (hey,  my two problems):

I enjoyed the video and have a question. You said this about the piriformis: “Piriformis – this muscle extends from under the front side of the sacrum and attaches to the greater trochanter in the upper leg. The major action is to laterally rotate the hip as well as turn the foot out.” I am a long time competitive runner and my left foot turns out so it is not pointing the same direction as the knee. Could this be related to the pirifomis? I do have a lot of problems on the left side including a pain in the butt post runs, I had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in the hip this summer, but the foot twisting out is always there (sometimes worse than others). I am curious about the pirifrmis’ effect on this or does the twist create the pain in the butt?

Dr. Gangemi wrote this in reply:
Hi Jim, yes I’d say that is exactly what is happening to you. The left foot would be the tight piriformis (could be your psoas too), with the right side being inhibited (“weak”). The twist is really not what is causing the pain, but the piriformis being too tight is causing both the pain and the lateral rotation – that puts a significant amount of stress on your labrum, hence your surgery.
It is interesting learning about the connection between the piriformis and my left foot as well as the resultant labral tear, But I really don't' want to wait until April to see Dr. Michaud or even the end of the month to have an initial visit at The Spine Center. Will they address the piriformis? Is there where I could get a trigger point injection? Will it help my misaligned left side?

On the way back from the hospital, it suddenly occurred to me what to do short term. Today, I set up an appointment with Dr. Dannanburg, the podiatrist who gave me shoe inserts and later orthotics for my functional hallux limitis in my 1st MPT joints. When I first got the inserts in the summer of 2010, my foot felt great, within a week I was doing a 65 mile week, which I soon bumped up to 85 miles. My leg had a new alignment. However, while I continued to run, my left hip got worse and worse till I had a full blown labral tear in less than two months and I couldn't run at all. My feeling is that my foot and leg were tracking better and my left leg couldn't compensate and "hide from" the torn labrum (which it had been doing for years).

I was thinking about my orthotics post surgery, my leg turn-out and misalignment is getting worse. Then I remembered that it just wasn't orthotics or inserts that Dr. Dannenburg gave me. He adjusted bones in my foot and ankles as well as my fibula. So I think I might need him to adjust my bones again, as several bones in my ankle, foot, and where the fibula joins the knee feel stuck or trapped. He doesn't take my insurance either, but he is a podiatrist who is known throughout the world for his work, so I set up an appointment and will see what he says and does next week. Hopefully, he can get me up and running again with his manipulations.

So it is all about problem solving. I can't tell if there is an end in sight, but I will keep trying to figure out how to get my body out the door and running pain-free again. Never give up!

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