foam roller · IT band · j/fit · knee pain · massage · muscle groups · physical therapy · Running · TFL

The Hell That Is Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy Is A Necessary Evil

No physical therapy is not a fancy “sports massage” … it’s an “evil massage”.

Physical therapy is something I avoid as much as possible. There were several instances throughout my childhood where I had to go to physical therapy for various sports injuries and the memories had been fogged by time … or merely suppressed by my subconscious because to revisit those sessions would be too traumatizing.
Fast forward twenty years (ah … twenty physical therapy free years); and you’ll come to a moment in time where my husband thinks it’s a good idea to pick me up and fling me over his shoulder. Only this cave man behavior doesn’t go quite has planned and there were a few re-adjusting hops that involved a strained hip-flexor on my part. The kids thought it was great because mommy was being man-handled and tossed around like a rag doll. The husband thought it was great because the kids were cheering him on and he felt super strong. I was not nearly as enthusiastic and proceeded to make the following 9 months one great big guilt trip.

This happened in November 2014.  I saw a doctor sometime in March 2015 because I had a half-marathon scheduled for April which I knew I couldn’t hobble through.  I had been continuing my runs as normal but found that by the end of the day I was limping around and was unable to stop it.  My hip hurt standing, hurt when I sat, hurt when I slept … but oddly enough didn’t hurt as bad when I ran.

My first guilty admission to the pain was actually in January but I procrastinated. My running times suffered by about 30-35 seconds/mile on pace.  The fact that I thought pain was in my oblique shows how clueless I am about human physiology.

Runkeeper run dashboard

 

The doctor gave me some muscle relaxers, pain killers and told me not to run in the half.  None of the medicine worked; the pain killers just covered up the problem.  I went back to the doctors a few months later and they referred me to a physical therapy office.  The doctor new the owner and said that they know how to work with runners. Okay brief victory dance … she labeled me as a runner … that’s a first!  I’ll take it!

I ended up going twice a week for about 8 weeks. I was looking forward to that first visit because the pain was becoming more than a nuisance. I had to warm up for 10 minutes (usually running no faster than 7.0 mph) and the next 30 minutes was spent doing squats and all kinds of strengthening exercises for my core as well as exercises for flexibility and stability.  I felt like I was in a boot camp. All the little old ladies in for back mobility therapy were laughing at my sweaty ass doing agility ladder drills. Up until this point it was fun … almost like a gym session with a personal trainer.

Then it was “evil massage” time. This is when the gel comes out and the elbows come down. My IT bands were so tight the petite physical therapist had to climb up on the table and use her elbows (with all her weight behind them) to roll out my muscles. I’ve never felt so much pain!  It was awful! This is the stuff I remember from back in high school.  The dark side of physical therapy … the side they keep secret until you’re already laid out on the table immobilized!

Tiger tail portable foam roller

At one point I was rolled by a “Tiger tail” (above) … I had problems walking for two weeks. No joke. Couldn’t run.  Coworkers laughed at me walking like an old cowboy around the office.  I refused to take the stairs … lest I become the strange smell two weeks later when people actually came looking for my body.

Symptoms

  • Tight IT band
  • Tight TFL
  • Sore hip flexor
  • Knee pain
The physical therapy team said that my knew pain is a result of the tightness in my IT band. When I run it pulls my knee off center and causes discomfort. I also apparently have to work on my core and my balance. So many little things to focus on to fix two areas of discomfort.
Solutions
  • Therapeutic ultrasound. Takes me back to my pregnancy days except they weren’t looking for a baby in my knee. Felt okay until they hit a tender spot and then it was slightly better than agony. Not a fan.
  • Stop wearing heels at work. Well crap. I’m already short. Guess I’ll go from average to stumpy but hey … my knee doesn’t hurt as bad. It was a huge adjustment switching from 1.5 inch heels (which is short) over to flats.
  • Do 45 minutes of stretching 3x per day. Yeah because I don’t have a job, commute or family. I squeeze in 10 minutes 3x a day if I’m lucky.  I will say it does make a difference. Do it.
  • Leg strengthening exercises. Squats squats SQUATTTSSS! Yeah these are fun so no problem there.
  • Improving core. Okay so I think I have a four pack in there somewhere? My obliques are great but the middle needs some work. More stability in core = more stability everywhere else. But I don’t get FitBit steps for crunches dammit! Lots of planking, crunches and she must have mentioned pilates like a million times.
  • Use a foam roller daily. This was new to me. I hate it but I love it. (little Tony Horton #P90X reference there).  Check out my purchase below:)
36 inche j/fit Super High Density Foam Roller

This is the video on a full-body rolling routine. I watched it for guidance on how to use my new foam roller. Ashley Borden makes it look so easy and so painless.  Don’t be fooled.  She’s definitely fit but her body is also used to the foam rolling.

Your take away on physical therapy?  While it may be hell on earth it’s really a necessary evil. The longer you put it off the worse it’s going to get. Don’t be afraid to ask your therapist questions. They are a great resource and a wealth of knowledge on how the body works. You’d be surprised at how much you’ve been doing wrong when it comes to stretching and exercising (or lack thereof). Just don’t head into your physical therapy session expecting a relaxing massage … that’s a terrible mistake.

I’d love to hear about your physical therapy experiences so please do comment:)  If you’re in the physical therapy industry … I hate you, but I love you. #necessaryevil