The Ankle of Doom

As previously mentioned, I’ve been battling chronic ankle pain for most of the winter. It felt like my entire right leg was wonky… shorter, or tighter, or stiffer, or… something. Eventually my ankle started hurting when I ran.

I tried to loosen up the leg. I went to yoga. I rolled. I iced. I heated. I ibuprofened. I stretched. I backed off running. I cross trained. Nothing really helped.

I’m extremely resistant to seeking medical attention for running injuries; I have not had good experiences. Not because the doctors always tell me to stop running (I don’t like that either!), but because they usually don’t have a clue what’s going on and it’s a big, fat, extremely frustrating and annoying waste of time and money that ends in being told to take meds and rest or swim in a pee pee pool.

I was sick of my ankle bugging me, though, so I decided to try out the physical therapists at InStep. It’s a running store/physical therapist mashup, and the website seemed to be what I was looking for.

“You’ve been injured, you just had surgery, you have pain that won’t go away, your joints are stiff. We understand what you’re feeling – you want to get moving again. No matter what your age or walk of life, InStep Physical Therapy can help…”

Yes! Yes!!! Help me!

A friend said she’d heard good things. But I wasn’t sure what the appointment would entail. Was I supposed to have a referral from my primary care physician (I didn’t), should I wear workout clothes in case they wanted to put me on a treadmill and watch me run (I didn’t), or would they tell me I was in the wrong place altogether and I needed x-rays and crap first? Would it all be a ploy to sell me new shoes?

Luckily, the appointment was not scary. I appeared to be in the right place, they said my insurance would cover it, there was no treadmill or shoe pitch, and no one questioned the referral thing, even though I clearly stated on the intake form that I didn’t have one. Phew. Am I the only one who gets all worried about stuff like this? I tell ya. Tightly wound, I am. In more ways than one, as you’ll soon see.

The therapist asked me to walk around, as he observed whether I pronate (I don’t), asked what shoes I wear (he approved), and inquired the history of my injury.

I thought I hurt something towards the end of the summer, when I was pooped and bored after the Lakefront Marathon and slacked my way through Rimrock downhill half marathon, not training much as I tried to recover from weeks of sickness and exhaustion, then hiking all over God’s creation in Grand Junction, CO—because I couldn’t pass up the chance. I don’t remember a specific injury, but I do remember having really, really sore calves after my trip, and it being painful to even roll them.

That was it, he thought—usually one can’t even put enough weight on one’s calves when rolling to do anything productive. If it hurt that bad, there was something up.

Who knew?

The hypothesis is that I injured my calf, which I mistook as normal post-race/hiking soreness, and then it just never got enough blood flow to fully lengthen back out (if that makes sense, medically, because I have no idea and am paraphrasing), so it’s tight as a drum, which eventually resulted in me running a little goofy to compensate, and then annoying an ankle tendon that starts with a “p” (I can’t remember the name and what’s the difference between muscles and tendons? I’m too lazy to google it and this is in no way a medical blog).

But I did so much yoga and stretching and rolling, I said. Why didn’t that help?

The answer was fascinating to me. Apparently, there was no amount of stretching that was going to fix this small area. One’s body will just adjust by stretching the bigger muscles/tendons/whatevers, and the lame bit is left unaffected/unstretched/sadly alone. I keep picturing the leg muscles I saw Body Worlds exhibit I saw in Chicago. They looked like beef jerkey. I pictured one small black piece of jerkey, which was the bum part, just dangling there smoking a cig as I sat through so many damn yoga classes in an effort to get it back in business.

The little jerk! I sat through a yoga instructor putting a vibrating peace pipe on my chest for you!

The therapist could feel the corresponding swollen tendon in my ankle. He poked and prodded the entire area into ground beef as I clenched my teeth and jibberjabbered a million questions about his Birkiebeiner career in an attempt to distract myself. Unfortunately, he revealed that as an athlete himself, he finds the Birkie more difficult than a marathon, and I’ve now got the idea in my head that I have to find out. Those types of ideas never end well for me… I don’t even have cross country skis (yet?). Die, idea, die! I DO NOT NEED TO DO A LONG DISTANCE CROSS COUNTRY SKI RACE.

Meanwhile, the torture, he said, would increase blood flow to the area, lengthen it back out, and possibly fix the whole situation.

Huh? So… I’m not taking the entire summer of from running?

Nope, he said. You can run tonight. Just run/walk. And do calf raises daily.

Mind blown. More on my summer race plan, since I guess I get to have one (yeah!), soon.

I’m dying of a battered ankle area today from the abuse, but my right leg does feel different. It feels limber again. I’m optimistic.

(Do I need to do a cross country ski race?)


3 thoughts on “The Ankle of Doom

  1. Peroneal tendonitis. Been there, done that. Take it seriously. My gait got very out of whack with it (and I didn’t even realize it). It ended up putting a lot of stress on my back. Not good. Take care and don’t buy skis. If you want to challenge your endurance, I’ll give you a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and a few cubic yards of landscape rock. I challenge you to rock all my front planters in 24 hours or less. I’ll even let you train by first putting out 10 yards of mulch to the rest of the beds. Let me know if you want to take me up on that. 🙂

    1. Oh my gosh, you just gave me a clue as to where my endurance insanity came from… my parents used to buy yards and yards of mulch and vote which kid was “the hardest working mule” when it came to distributing it around the yard. I always won!!! Now I’d probably just hurt myself. 🙂 I like the idea of what a lunatic I’d look like doing this, though.

  2. Good to hear you got that figured out and that it isn’t so serious to prevent you from running. I had no idea InStep was also for therapy. I stopped in at the one in the 3rd Ward last fall, but could only browse briefly because I was on my lunch break.

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