Monday, October 2

Crying like a baby...

So, on hearing that I had finally decided to bite the bullet and see Boulder's most celebrated physical therapist -- former world marathon champion Mark Plaatjes, my pal Marci said:

"I don’t envy you tomorrow – do you want me to come hold your hand while you writhe in pain and cry like a baby?!?"

"Huh", I said. "I can take it. (Do NOT remind me I said this.)"

And it was a piece of cake. Well, apart from me screaming, cursing, crying and kicking the table with the good leg :)

D'you know what? I have decided to NEVER get injured again!! The treatment is just too painful. Mark is built like a flyweight boxer, but he is hellishly strong. Smiling apologetically during the treatment, he told me he really doesn't enjoy inflicting pain. "If I could find another way of doing it, I would use it", he said. "But this is what works. I could go easier and have you come back ten times, or we can get it over with in a couple of sessions."

"How about we try for five?" I asked, ever the wimp.

No but seriously folks... I've had strong deep tissue treatment before, most notably on a calf tear, but this transcended all that. But he's right...everyone says it works. That's why I'd followed practically every elite (and otherwise) runner in Boulder to Mark's clinic.

There comes a point when all the laser, massage, Scenar, ice, ultrasound, trigger point, muscle balancing -- you name it, I've tried it -- just doesn't reach the spot. This is an irritating, minor injury I've been dealing with since just before the Bolder Boulder back in May. It hasn't stopped me running (or racing), but it has certainly limited me.

The good news reported to Mark's fingers was that the muscle tear had healed nicely. The bad news was that as I'd not taken time out nor got appropriate treatment, my body had gone on laying down collagen to protect the injury site. The problem is that this stuff does not get laid down in nice smooth layers following the line of the muscle. It congeals and cross-crosses in weird patterns to brace the site and restrict movement. That's the bad news: it means that there are several layers of scar tissue for Mark to work through. And the only way to do that effectively is to apply enough force with a suitably tough and sensitive set of fingers and thumbs to break down the scar tissue and smooth the muscle fibres into the right directions so that I get full range of motion and no pain.

A few months ago I was running downhill fast at Bobolink on loose terrain; I hit a rock and my foot slipped out from under me. I did feel a slight twinger as I corrected my balance, but just iced it and carried on with the rest of the week's training. As it began to heal, I unkowingly stressed it out a but more with track sessions.

This is kind of a weird injury for a runner to get, Mark told me. It's more common in bike-riders, because when you're sitting on a saddle the sartorius gets called on as an accessory hip flexor, to assist and help stabilise the bigger workhorse muscles of the thighs.

The longest muscle in the body, the sartorius is more like a thin band of fibre. It runs from the pelvis to the inside knee and is attached with a long tendon to the lower leg. It's also known as the "tailor" muscle, as you use it to pull your legs into position when you sit cross-legged on the floor to darn your socks.

I had ripped mine right where it crosses the adductors. So everything was sort of mashed and glued together with scar tissue.

With the warning that I might be sore for a couple of days ringing in my brain like a bad joke, I limped (literally) out of Mark's office. Even so, even with the soreness and the limp, I could feel it had freed up. Amazing!

It's a privilege to have access to Mark. One of the things that really impressed me was the speed at which he assessed what was wrong. Well, I guess he's seen a few hundred cases before... then on go the X-ray hands, he senses the tissue and puts his finger right on the spot.

And you know what's really great? I don't have to go back for two whole weeks. Enough time (I hope) to forget just how much it hurts!

* Mark Plaatjes, RPT, In Motion Rehabilitation, 2775 Pearl Street, Suite 201, Boulder, CO 80302, tel 1-303-247-0687.

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