23 January 2015

And Then The Pain Disappeared

Twenty years ago, I injured my iliotibial band while training for a half marathon. I went for physical therapy but it didn't take and for years, I couldn't run more than about two and a half miles without pain. I gave up running and I gave up triathlons (because running), but I took solace in the fact that I could still hike and swim.

Three or four years ago it occurred to me that maybe they'd come up with some new ideas about treating ITB problems. So I googled and found out that, indeed, the stretch and massage protocol in use in the 1990s didn't help a lot of people, and they were recommending strengthening instead. So I joined the gym and after a few months on the weight machines found I could run three miles, three and a half... four.... 

And then, in a fit of optimism or insanity, I signed up for a marathon.

During my eight-mile run yesterday, my ITB started to feel stiff. And then the outside of my knee started to ache. This is a bad sign: it gets so painful I can barely walk, to say nothing of running.

But then I remembered what my yoga teacher said a few weeks ago: if you have stiffness in your body, a frozen shoulder, you can use your mind to let go.

I was kind of pissed at the time; I've been working on recovering from a shoulder injury since a car accident three years ago, and he was saying all I had to do was think about it relaxing? But I was also intrigued.

But during the run, I recalled what he'd said, and since I was three miles from home, it was getting colder and darker, and the only other option was to walk home across the fields, I decided to try. I put all my mental energy into relaxing the hip.

I was also channeling the physical therapist who worked on my shoulder last year. He'd say, "loose, loose" while he was drilling into a pressure point with his knuckles and causing me exquisite pain. (And when I say "exquisite," I mean "excruciating," but for some reason the medical profession likes the other term.)

And I felt both of my hip joints relax, and more motion come into them as I ran, and both my feet straightened -- I've always been pigeon-toed -- and the pain in my knee disappeared. I spent the rest of the run telling myself to stay loose. I stopped to walk a couple of times, but mostly I just kept trotting along, trying to feel like water flowing home.

I still can't really believe it. But I got home from the run and walked up a flight of stairs without pain, and I'm still pain-free today (though a little stiff). And hopeful. Incredibly hopeful.