A year or so ago, I got it into my silly head that I could run. After a hard gym session, I looked down my street and thought “I wonder what would happen if I ran down that road and back.” So, I did, and I didn’t disintegrate. And then I did it again, and again, and again, very slowly building up the mileage, counting every kilometer, every minute, cadence, pace and speed, reveling in the fact that I, me! the girl who couldn’t, was somehow managing to freaking run. I was elated, and terrified at the same time. I was also incredibly slow, which was hardly surprising considering the shape I was in (in other words, in no shape at all). But I didn’t care. I put on my expensive shoes, my inexpensive everything else, and went out in the dark where no one could see me and my wobbly bits. It was just me, my music and the road. When I wasn’t running, I was thinking about it. It was insane.
I realized quickly though that my body wasn’t really built for running. First of all, due to chronic medical conditions, my energy levels were never consistent. Then, my ankles were hopelessly overpronated. Further, my knees were impossibly crossed. And so there was pain. I immediately asked for help and got referred to the podotherapist, who made me orthotic insoles. And then off to the physiotherapist I went, who started me on a regime of stability exercises. Running is not just endurance you see, it is also coordination and stability. Essentially I was learning to walk again, the right way this time. Finally, I started experiencing tiny little points of pain that kept cropping up in various places in my legs. For this, there was another solution – dry needling.
Say *what* ?
So dry needling is an acupuncture technique, where a solid needle is inserted into the annoying knot of muscle, which is then teased loose. Yes that is every bit as cringey as it sounds – you know it is working when you feel the whole muscle contract with a dull, cramping pain. Ouch.
I was curious about this procedure, so I looked up some literature. Dry needling is primarily used to treat myofascial trigger points – “hyperirritable spots in the fascia surrounding skeletal muscle, associated with palpable nodules in taut bands of muscle fibers” (~ Wikipedia), till a muscular twitch is achieved (however I understand that this is, while preferable, not necessary). Clearly there is a similarity with acupuncture, but dry needling treats pain points directly – the trigger points, rather than acupuncture points. There are several reviews on the subject out there (here and here for example), which deem this treatment effective, safe, and efficacious.
In my personal experience, dry needling has been pretty effective – the pain is pretty much gone in the treated areas, and I am thankful for it. Recovery is fairly quick, in spite of feeling rather fragile for a few days after. However, for me it gets more complicated. I have been having serious pain in my right knee, first in the runners’ knee area, and now due to issues with my hamstring. My physiotherapist is sure that the knee pain is referred, and now the mission is to find the right trigger points that are causing this misery. Long story short, I haven’t been able to run in weeks. WEEKS.
As you can imagine, breaking up with running has had its emotional toll on me. I have raved in anger, cried in misery and wallowed in self pity as I went cold turkey, as any addict would. I’ve come to terms with it though, with the following rationality –
- The running ban is very probably temporary.
- At least my muscles are not damaged.
- No running does not mean no cardio at all. Hello, gym!
Upwards and onwards, as they say, as the goal changes. I’ve set my sights on upper body strength, among other things, with the secret hope that I will run again, and soon. Till then, I will willingly lie on the physiotherapist’s table with needles sticking out of me, if that is what it takes. Wish me luck.