Sunday, March 3, 2013

Maintenance Work

The main reason for this post is to shed some light on a problem I've heard a number of runners having. Some variation of a tight lower back and tight glutes.

I should know better by now. By doing one single activity for too long, in this case running, I'm bound to create a problem. The last six years that I've been participating in ultras have provided an immense amount of pleasure and of course a bit of pain. Most of the time the pain goes away with a little rest, but for nearly the last two years I have experienced an increasing amount of tightness in my lower right back and glute. Slowly the pain changed from a discomfort to a genuine injury that was hindering my stride and slowing me down.

At the end of 2012 I took some time off and worked on getting my core strength back to something normal and hoping the back issue would go away with the rest. After a couple weeks off I went for an easy 9 mile road run and I could barely walk when I was finished because the pain in my back was so bad. In fact it was worse than ever before and I really started to worry that I would be throwing away 2013 getting it sorted it out. Was it my tight hamstrings? Weak core? Or something else? The answer was YES, YES and YES.

Through a referral I decided to go see John Fieg, PT, at Canyon Sports Therapy where I would get a full gait analysis and try to figure out the source of the pain. After explaining the pain and watching me run they had me lie down flat, pulled on my ankles and had me sit up. I was astonished at what I saw. My left leg was nearly 2cm longer than my right. I had a posteriorly rotated hip and to compensate I would rotate my right hip to try and compensate for the leg length discrepancy. After a quick manipulation my sacroiliac joint (SI) was popped back in place and almost instantly I felt better. Now the real work would begin by strengthening my hips, glutes and core in order to keep the SI joint in place.

I'm happy to report that after 8 weeks of doing the exercises and very limited running I'm feeling much stronger and the SI joint is staying in place. Again, I wanted to share this in case other runners have been dealing with some mysterious radiating pain/tightness in their lower back. It is curable and you should do something about it!

The moral of the story for me is that I cannot get away with "just running" any longer. Like many things in life I'm going to have to do some maintenance work to keep everything running smoothly. Now I can start to focus on that first Friday in September...

1 comment:

Missy B. said...

I've had a lot of SI joint issues over the years as well (stemming from a lifting injury as a ski instructor nearly 15 years ago). Thanks for passing on your PT contact. If mine flares up again I will definitely get in touch with him.

On a side note, I've had a lot of proximal-hamstring issues over the last year (where the hamstring attaches to the bottom of the pelvis). I've noticed that if my quads get tight, they actually pull my pelvis out of alignment and tip it forward, stretching the hamstrings past where they want to be, and straining the proximal attachment. The cure? Foam-rolling the quads! Instantly releases the tension on my hamstrings by letting my pelvis tip back into proper alignment.

Glad you are feeling better. I hope you have a great summer of racing.