Friday, May 23, 2014

"That feels like bone. It's not."

Ever since getting discharged from physical therapy in March and sloooooowly but surely picking up the mileage, I've made a pretty honest effort to keep doing all the things my PT recommended: extra strength work for right hamstring/glute & calves, rolling (actually, the word 'grinding' feels more accurate) my glutes, right hip flexors/adductors, & calves with a lacrosse ball, & stretching the heck out of them. I am far from perfect, but I do make an honest effort and usually manage to get at least some work on these things in every day.

But it never feels like enough. Rolling my right hip for 15 minutes barely feels like it scratches the surface, and my calves (though much improved through PT) are still knotted and gross inside, and after a run it seems like I can't possibly stretch them enough. Since these issues are what caused my hip strain & stress fracture, I've gotten increasingly wary of going to back to longer & longer & harder & harder runs when the underlying problem is clearly still there, particularly since the level of work I'm able to do on those issues myself seems woefully inadequate.

So, on Thursday morning I called in a pro, a massage therapist in San Francisco with a sports focus and extensive experience with runners and triathletes. I had heard only glowing things about him from other runners, and it seemed like the kind of work I needed was right up his alley, so I made an appointment.

The experience was fantastic. And by fantastic, I mean excruciatingly painful in all the ways that grinding and tenderizing chronically tight muscles should be. Like every other sports medicine/body work professional who's ever laid hands on my hip flexors and glutes, he was stunned speechless for a moment, and by the end of the session hypothesized that I am just genetically prone to getting SUPER tight after exertion. (My favorite quote, as he was digging his elbow into my TFL, has got to be, "Feel that? That feels like bone. It's not.")

He did some ART-like stuff, some traction, some passive and active stretching, some suction cupping on my calves like my PT used to do, and a whole bunch of what I can only describe as "tenderizing the shit out of anything that doesn't feel like it should." Afterward my right hip felt MUCH looser (so bizarre to have the left one feel tight by comparison); he remarked that he almost never works only on one side, even if the other is asymptomatic, but my right one was so completely FUBAR'd that he thought it was better to spend more time on that even at the expense of having me feel less balanced at the end. (He encouraged me to work on the left side on my own at home later to help even things out.) Honestly, he did such a wide range of work that "massage therapist" really doesn't seem to cover it.

I'm planning on going back in two weeks to let him take another crack at it; between now and then, he said that the hardcore work he'd done on it should open things up a bit and make it easier for me to accomplish more with the lacrosse ball on my own. Massage therapy is not cheap (and sadly, not covered by insurance) so it's not something I can do indefinitely (at least not with any regularity), but I'm hoping that investing in a few sessions while I'm training for Santa Rosa will help keep me out of trouble injury-wise, especially if I continue doing a lot of work on it on my own.

He also recommended looking into compression tights for wearing after my runs (even short, easy ones, given how tight my muscles get) and also potentially wearing my compression socks while I'm running as a preventative measure. (Honestly, that may not happen on warmer days, but I don't see how it can possibly hurt otherwise.) So there's that to look into as well.

So yeah. If you're in SF & looking for someone like that, I can make a solid recommendation.

Has anyone tried running/recovering in compression gear for counteracting muscle tightness/myofascial issues? I usually wear my compression socks after long runs, races, or particularly hard runs and they do seem to make my legs feel better more quickly, but I've never tried using them for preventing tight muscles.


  1. I cannot imagine wearing my compression socks while running — that sounds hot and itchy and uncomfortable — but I SWEAR by my compression sleeves. I cannot articulate what exact physical difference they make, but I can absolutely tell they make one; my calves are less sore, my ankles feel looser, everything just *works* better when I wear them, even for not-super-long runs. I have a Zensah pair, and I just got some ProCompression ones too but I haven't tried them yet. The Zensah ones are buttery soft, which I think helps with the itchy/hot issues.

    Also, yes, I'll take that recommendation! That massage sounds like heaven, and by heaven I kind of mean hell.

    1. I'm considering getting a pair of sleeves for similar reasons -- I don't find the socks itchy, but they definitely get warm some days. Thanks for the recommendations!

      (Oh & I'll email you about the MT.)

  2. I've worn compression tights while running (not for muscle tightness - just because it was cold and I had no other option. They were really comfortable.

  3. I've always done all of my long runs and races with compression socks, so I have no idea how much difference they actually make when it comes to soreness/tightness. I'll be interested to hear what you find, though!

    The massage therapist sounds like a keeper! I agree that it'll be a good idea to see him at regular intervals while you train for Santa Rosa.

  4. I've worn my compression socks all winter for long runs and speed work, and they definitely help some. I stopped wearing them for running about a month ago though because of the weather.
    Great about the MT, enjoy your sessions, and let us know if you feel the difference on your next run.

  5. I have no formal training or science to back this up - but in my experience, stretching has cumulative effects. When you first start stretching, your muscles are sort of freaked out because they aren't used to it. But there is a cumulative effect from stretching - sort of like running. Your muscles get used to it, and they relax more and allow you to stretch more over time. Sort of like building up from a 5K to a marathon. Great work in stretching almost every day. It's a pain in the butt sometimes, but so worth it! Kristen