yoga stretches

A Runner and Her Injuries

Recently at my physical therapy appointment my doctor gave me some new exercises and also gave me some progressions for exercises I was already doing to heal my back. My goal with PT was to fix my back pain, but more importantly to get back to the activities I love (biking, running, yoga, kettlebells). My therapist said that if you want to run, you should be doing a few specific exercises on a frequent basis.

Want to be a runner and not have to deal with frequent/chronic injury? She said you should be doing the glute bridge exercise and be able to hold a plank for 60 seconds. And maintain those goals. Both exercises will keep your core strongΒ and stabilize your hips during running; in turn it will keep Runner’s Knee and low back pain away. Sold. Sign me up!

I wanted to share what I am currently doing to improve my body. So far the exercises seem to be helping a lot!

GluteΒ Bridge

The glute bridge exercise might sound familiar to you. It’s a yoga move and common in PT. There are so many benefits to this exercise but the biggest one for me is that stronger glutes fix my runner’s knee. Period. It also helps stabilize your core and helps alleviate low back pain.Β I’ve been given this exercise before but in the past, even though I did it diligently, I never really felt a difference. I mentioned that to my therapist and she suggested this variation:

glute-bridge

One simple change– doing it on your heels instead of with your feet flat– made a HUGE difference for me. Suddenly I FELT the exercise in my butt and glutes when I did it this way. This is now the only way I do it. And I feel it after I’m done, too. It’s important to engage your core, tighten your glutes and hold them as you go up and down. If not, you’re not getting the same benefits. I love this move. I feel it the next day!Β I also found a website with examples of other variations I may try in the future.

One Leg Glute Bridges

This is a variation of the basic glute bridges the physical therapist is having me do. It’s supposed to be harder than the traditional way, and it is! Here is a short video of the demonstration.

Glute-Bridge-Adduction-Knee-Extension

Like the regular glute bridge, do it on your heel. When I first tried it at physical therapy I was like, Oh holy moly this is a LOT harder. I sure did feel it! My doc said the leg doesn’t need to be straight out (like the above picture), just raised. The important keys: do it on your heels, engage your pelvic floor while you do it, and then make sure your hips are staying level as you raise them. If you’re twisting the raised hip, you’re not getting the benefits. And probably messing up the low back.

One Leg Romanian Deadlift

I’ve written about this move before. It’s a must for me when I want to keep Runner’s Knee away from my life. It was a regular part of my weight lifting workout for a long time. When I had my back flare up I stopped doing this move (and most weight lifting) and it didn’t take long for my knees to start to act up. πŸ™

When my therapist watched me do this exercise the one correction she made was to have me hold the weight (or kettlebell) in one hand instead of holding two. Then put the free hand on the small of your back as you bend over. This helps you to make sure you aren’t raising/twisting your hip as you bend. I was! Granted I usually do the move in front of a mirror to make sure I don’t twist, but it’s easy to twist and then there’s no point in the exercise because you putting strain on your lower back. Good to know!

Single-Leg-Romanian-Deadlift

Plank

I know, I know, love/hate relationship right? Planks suck. They are hard. But when you finish doing them you feel accomplished! My therapist suggested doing the plank on the elbows instead of hands (it will be harder that way) and to make sure that you are engaging your core muscles while you hold it otherwise you are putting pressure on your low back. Especially if your back is sagging in any way. I see that a lot in the gym–people doing a plank (side plank, traditional etc) and they are sagging. Do it in front of a mirror if necessary to hold it!

Bridge-Plank-on-Elbows

Clam

This exercise is one I’ve been given for pretty much every running injury I’ve gotten. This move is supposed to help strengthen your hips. I didn’t always like it because I never really “felt” it. I tried it with a stretchy rubber PT band and that helped a LITTLE bit…but still, didn’t really feel it when I did the exercise. Recently my therapist suggested I try a different way to do it. I hope I can describe it properly…

So same position as the photo below (minus the band). Except instead of having the knees and feet touching, she had me raise the higher leg so it was parallel to the leg resting on the floor and THEN do the clam move. So the legs aren’t actually touching as you do the move, but you’re still doing the same form. If that makes sense? Okay, if it does, good. Because this variation was much better! I could feel the exercise doing it this way.

clam_edited

So far it’s been working. I think the combination of the standing desk and doing the PT exercises during my workouts on a regular basis have helped my back AND my knees! I also started doing the cobra/up-dog yoga stretch after each set of kettlebell swings. It helps a lot!

A Break

Whomp whomp.Β New injury alert! Lucky me.

So remember when I said I’d been having foot pain? The doctor determined that I had somehow bruised the bones in my feet. She recommended I get some good inserts that have arch support. I usually walk around in old running shoes that I’ve retired from running in. They have a lot of support and cushion (I get new running shoes 2x a year–they recommend you replace your running shoes every 500 miles, which I don’t usually run before switching but 2x a year seems to work well for me).

I ordered a pair of fairly expensive inserts for my shoes per the doctor. I gave them a try for almost a week and hated them.Β Next, I decided to give a Dr. Scholl’s cheaper option a try and it worked so much better for me. I got the ones that are specifically for athletic shoes. They feel so comfortable and give me much better support and were so much better than the first thing I tried.

The foot issue seemed to get better, unfortunately my back was out of whack. I have no idea why or what happened. It’s not like I did something weird in the gym and felt an instant “oh shit, that hurt” injury. It just kind of happened. It’s entirely possible that having weird foot pain for a month and a half lead me to walk in a weird way and that threw things off. I’ve never really had back pain before, just the usually “I lifted heavy in the gym and I’m tight and sore” so I didn’t really know what to do.

I saw my doc, again, and she said it was inflammation in my sacrum. In the photo below where it’s red, that’s exactly where it hurts on my body. It’s the muscle, though, not the bones/joint. In the beginning it felt like a giant lump.

SI_joint_intro01
Thankfully it’s not effecting my hips or legs. Just my very low back/glutes. It’s odd–I have no idea why it’s inflammed and cranky but it freakin’ hurts. She recommended ibuprofen, icing it and physical therapy. She said I could do whatever I wanted in the gym, as long as it didn’t hurt. I’d told her that certain poses in yoga hurt really bad (downward dog specifically) but everything else seemed ok.

I took it easy. I stopped weight lifting for about a week. I stuck with swimming and the elliptical. Then I added some weight lifting back in–mostly upper body stuff like bicep curls, shoulder presses, etc. Nothing lower body. Seemed ok. Then I added running back in and that was okay.

The next week I was feeling a little better. It was still there but I could move around without pain–it mostly just annoying and uncomfortable. I added back more weight lifting and flared it up again. It was bad. I can’t pinpoint which activity aggravated it because I took it pretty easy and was trying to be gentle with my body.

Either way, it’s time to rest. I have a physical therapy appointment coming up and I decided to give chiro a try. I’ve never been a huge advocate for it. I tried it a few times years ago after a car accident and always left feeling worse than when I went in. In terms of healing an injury I lean more towards massage, maybe acupuncture, yoga and physical therapy exercises. But I was feeling desperate and wanted to try it again. Maybe the experience would be better this time around. After watching Michael suffer in excruciating back pain for years, I was freaking out and wanted stay on top of this before it became chronic.

  • I decided to take a week off from the gym and let my body rest and heal.
  • I’ve been taking ibuprofen like crazy (was previously taking prescription strength, which helped my back a lot but I had a bad reaction to the meds so back to OTC).
  • I’ve been icing my back throughout the day and then at night I’m alternating heat and ice.
  • I’ve been doing yoga stretches that feel good on my back (cat/cow, child’s pose, and a spinal twist that I don’t know the name of). I’ve been avoiding downward dog.

cow-cat-pose-410x290

  • I went to the chiropractor.

I think resting and icing is going to be my best bet and I’m crossing my fingers it’s a short lived injury.

Chiro

I went to the guy that Michael goes to and has recommended to me before all this. He did an exam to test my spine and see what was going on. He determined it was the SI joint and L4, which are apparently connected and it’s common when one is inflamed the other is.

spine

Next he had me spend some time on a massaging table. They hooked up my back to the TENS device and I laid down on a heating pad then they turned the massage table on that rolled up and down my spine. It felt magnificent! I want one of these things at home. πŸ™‚ I think I was on the table for about 20-25 minutes. Then he put me on this chair face down that moved up and down, bending my body in a slow, methodical way as he massaged the area. Finally, he adjusted me. It was a little scary and creepy at first but I felt a little better as soon as it was done.

I have to say I didn’t really enjoy hearing my spine pop. It felt good way down below near the pain, but higher up the spine and the neck? Creepy! He said it would probably take 3-4 visits for me to get better but he was optimistic.

The next day I felt a lot better but not “cured”. The pain was a little different than it was previously. I’d slept really well and didn’t have back pain when I tossed and turned in bed like I had been experiencing for the last two weeks. That alone was improvement! I was still sore and tight though.

He said that I could do some exercising, he said swimming would be the best thing, elliptical second best. He suggested I skip yoga for a few weeks and give running a break for a few days (because of the impact). He said I could lift weights, basically if it doesn’t hurt it’s ok. I wanted to give my back a break the weights, though, so I was okay with not doing that. He said that just laying on the couch while I heal is not the best idea, so that was good!