So, this year has been crazy for me, just as it has for most people around the world. I have had a lot of projects in the works and a lot of focus on the clients I have had the opportunity to work with, but what I have not been doing as well as I have wanted to, is being consistent with posting on my blog. So, here is my fresh start for that! I hope to provide helpful tips and tools, but I am also going to document some of my own rehab (see below for the sad reasons for this) to hold me accountable as well as encourage others who might be struggling from not being able to be in an activity that they want to be doing (like running).
This summer was our first summer living in the beautiful Cache Valley. I enjoyed it so much. Our house lies less than a quarter mile away from a trail system that goes for endless miles in several directions. I went trail running every chance I was able (my husband and I have to take turns being the ones to get to leave the house, since our kids are too little to leave home alone). On most Saturdays, we went hiking as a family, or I would take one of my kiddos with me and go for some sort of hike. The trails were always exciting to explore and I definitely know that my happy place is in the sun and fresh air.
Toward the end of July, I was running an easy 12 mile trail run. As I came down the mountain toward home, I landed hard on a rock and twisted my ankle. I felt it pop and for a few steps it took my breath away. I walked for a moment, then took some tentative jogging steps on it. When it didn’t collapse on my, I finished the last couple miles home. I’ve “tweaked” my ankle many times before and been blessed to never have to miss a run over it, so I figured it was no big deal. Indeed, I was able to run on it and so I continued to do my normal workout routines as if nothing happened. The next week, my 14 mile trail run went really well. I felt great, I ran faster than I had in a while and though my ankle was sore, I was really careful with each step and felt like it wasn’t any worse by the end.
The following week, I was running down a hill pushing a double stroller when I stepped wrong and felt another pop. By the time I got home, my ankle was swollen and it hurt incredibly to sit in the butterfly stretch. “No big deal” I told myself. “I am a physical therapist. I know how to rehab ankles.” I iced it, did exercises, but back on my running some. It progressed to pain all through my foot. I could no longer walk normally and carrying my two-year-old down the stairs was nearly impossible. So, I stopped running all together. I dry needled the muscles around my ankle and started mobilizing my foot like crazy. The foot pain cleared up and I was able to do most exercises without pain, but running, especially on uneven ground still flared up my ankle every time. I also had pain in certain yoga stretches and even rock climbing.
After working on it for months, I came to the conclusion it was not going to go away on it’s own and while I had found a lot of great workouts I could do to get a good sweat, running was too important to let my pride keep me from seeking help. I went to see a highly recommended foot and ankle specialist. He ordered and MRI of my ankle (side note- never go to the hospital system to get an MRI unless you have super good insurance. I was able to cut my bill in less than ¼ by finding a stand alone clinic to do the MRI- still same images sent to my doctor).
When the results came back, it showed significant damage to my Anterior Talofibular ligament as well as a tear of my peroneus brevis tendon. After looking at the research and talking to my doctor, I realized that if I ever wanted to get back to trial running, I would have to get these surgically repaired.
I’m not gonna lie, there was some ugly crying going on when it hit me. I felt like a fraud. Here, I am, a physical therapist and author about a book on pain-free running and I couldn’t even handle my own ailments. It was hard, and humbling. When I got done with my pity party, I set my mind that I was going to make the most of this. I was going to make it through this. I was going to use this experience to help others to either avoid the path I am now on, or to manage their way through it. My surgery is less than a week away now (pending all clear from COVID, etc.) and my plan is to document my journey while also providing helpful tips and exercises to those who are coming along. I would love to have you join me!
To start off on this path, I want to share my hindsight that it may be beneficial to someone else:
- Take the time to heal! This is not news to me. As a physical therapist, I preach this message so much. While I believe in staying active in some way if at all possible, it is important to let the tissues heal. I should have taken the time to let the initial injury heal and it perhaps would have been less severe.
- I am not certain it would have helped, but I think in my case it could have at least lessened the ankle injury had I been wearing supportive ankle socks. It is still just a theory, but especially if you feel you have a tendency for instability in your ankles, it might be something to consider.
- When things aren’t healing the way you expect, seek help from those who can provide more information about your injury. I did the best I could to rehab my injury on my own, but ultimately, I was grateful for technology and knowledgeable doctors who can help me beyond what I could do for myself. I always believe that physical therapy is a great option to start and most surgeons will require a bout of conservative therapy prior to offering surgery. So, I would suggest starting there and a good physical therapist could guide you if your injury is beyond their scope of practice.
I hope you have a healthy and happy week! Please feel free to email me, or leave a message below if you want to reach out with questions or comments!