I have been through so many different treatments over the years for various injuries and ongoing aches and pains it’s hard to keep track. All treatment modalities have their usefulness. I have found many to be palliative (temporary or immediate pain relief) but lacking the lasting “cure” effect.
Over the past few years my own running has been on hiatus due to ongoing, lingering, nagging, pain-in-the-ass slow going improvements followed by more breakdowns. I am a born skeptic (ok, not born but more likely grown). Though I will try almost anything I do not go in thinking “this is the cure” or “this is the secret” to being healthy, strong, well, etc. I am also an avid reader of research. Therefore, if the science doesn’t support it (i.e. 99% of all supplements) I have a very difficult time climbing on the band wagon to every new thing that comes along (i.e. barefoot running, Bikram yoga) being posed as the new panacea to healthy running. That being said, it does not mean I wouldn’t try any of those things – in fact I have. It does mean that the effects have to be proven to me. the anecdotal “wow, this made me who I am today” crap that is stated so often, simply doesn’t wash for me. The bottom line is that I am not easily influenced by what is called the Placebo Effect.
Great introduction huh? Well, what I wanted to introduce is something I have been introduced to over the past months. My physical therapist (Nicole Armbrust – Spooner Physical Therapy) is in a fellowship program that emphasizes functional physical therapy. Now, PT has always been in some ways functional. But the past approaches are almost always focused on the part that is hurt (Achilles tendon), and isolated exercises (1-legged squat, stretches).
But that is where the programs through the Gray Institute for Functional Performance in Michigan differ. The approach is a systems approach. The assessments are systems approach.
After a complete assessment which is actually ongoing Nicole was able to isolate two major themes contributing to my Achilles issues. My feet had lost flexibility in the forefoot and calcaneal articulations and lower ankle as well as rigidity up in my thoracic spine. As a result:
- She is using a top-down and a bottom-up approach in my therapy.
- I am NOT doing Achilles tendon specific work (or at least VERY sparingly)!
- She is integrating full range of motion exercises as well as balance exercises (some traditional and some not so).
- She reevaluates systematically each visit the effects of the previous workouts and then does some truly interesting creative use of combinations of exercises to get desired results the next time.
- She has different and progressive exercises every visit. I do NOT do the same lame exercises day after day and week after week.
We have been working together for the past 3-4 weeks and I ran on the Alter-G treadmill last Friday (2 miles -14:45 @ 81% body weight) without symptoms for the first time in years. Over the past years as I have attempted running, I have always had some lingering “something” down there. I don’t right now.
So, through looking at my medical issues through a different lens – a systems and holistic lens we find the chain reaction of issues which contribute to my tendonitis. When various parts of the chain do not function as a fluid unit, something has to pick up the stress. That stress translates into over using some muscles and tendons (some very small) aggravating them to the point of pain and injury. And the weakest link is the link that will break.
My weakest link is my Achilles (contrary to what some people in my life will say – that it is my brain). My Achilles tendon problems (tendinosis, tendinitis, surgeries, scar tissue…) are indeed my Achilles Heel.
My advice – find a physical therapist who has completed the Gray Institute for Functional Transformation. Better yet – go see Nicole @ Spooner Physical Therapy if you are in the Phoenix area. Nicole even has a magic wand – just ask. I think she may have used it on me for my attitude adjustment – but not for a Placebo effect.
I’m still on the comeback trail and there is light at the end of the tunnel.