Tim and I worked last night on releasing my abdominal trigger points. We used our hands, a wooden spoon, and a trigger point therapy ball. In doing so, we were able to find the spots on my belly that cause me the knife-like pain while I run. When they are palpated, the pain occurs not only there, but straight through to my lower back, down my leg, and sometimes into my shoulder. They are so hard they feel like bone rather than muscle.
We have not been able to get them to totally release. But we've kept trying. And to add to our efforts, I decided to go today for a trigger point massage. Massage therapists can receive specific training that allows them to release these specific points. I figured an MT with this training would do better than we had.
I was wrong. I made an appointment based off of a website, and that's always a gamble. When I arrived at the place, I thought it looked a little shady. However, you never know. Some of the best restaurants look like dumps from the outside. When I walked in, there were signs everywhere, written in marker, stating "Please close the doors gently!" and "Payment required at time of service!" Everything had an exclamation mark. It was not at all a calming type of environment like you'd expect in a massage parlor. Still, I was keeping faith. I met the therapist (whom I won't name, as I'm not trying to ruin people's businesses) and he had me fill out some paperwork.
The paperwork did not ask at all about my symptoms, but rather gave me another list of commands. "No requesting sexual favors from therapists," "No loud talking or eating during sessions," "Close the doors gently!" I am not making those up. I had to sign my name to acknowledge that I agreed to live by these rules. While the paperwork seemed odd, the MT seemed pretty normal. He was trained in trigger point release, and that's all I cared about. I got on the table, undressed (well, not all the way) and got under the blanket. The ceiling tiles were yellow and sagging. The chairs in the room were non-matching dinner table chairs. There was, and I kid you not, a tape player playing "soothing" music. If it weren't for the fact that I was half-naked on the table at that point, I think I would have bolted.
He came in and began asking me about my symptoms (which I had pretty much told him on the phone the day before, and he said he could help me). He exposed my abdomen and started working. The massage was very light. It didn't hurt at all. I explained my pain, and he said "You know, it's possible that you have just been doing too much, too soon with the running. You need complete rest." I tried to explain that it's not at all a case of too much, too soon, and that it happened immediately after Rowan was born.
I explained that I had seen a chiropractor and that he had diagnosed me. He rolled his eyes a little. "You know, chiropractors pretty much only have knowledge of the bone structure. They know nothing about soft tissue. You need a second or third opinion." I was about to interject that I was pretty confident in the abilities of my chiropractor, but he kept going. "I think this may be tendonitis." "But doesn't that occur where a muscle attaches to the bone? This pain is in the middle of my abdomen." He then again went on about how I'm doing too much too soon. Here's how the rest of it went. I stopped responding to him verbally. I just started thinking out my responses in my head.
"I've determined that the right side of your abdomen does have some sort of problem." Really?! Wow, thank you! Mystery solved. "Running is actually very hard on your body. It's not really good for you." Okay, I'm tuning you out now. "There are a lot of different exercise options. My friends do the elliptical. You need to try that. I bet that wouldn't hurt it." I'm going to assault you. "It would be a shame for someone like you to have to stop doing what you seem to enjoy, but that is often times the answer." I'm going to assault you and key your car on my way out. "You should not run today, it will undo everything I'm doing here." And what ARE you doing here? I did more than this in the car on the way here. You're doing it like you're cleaning a kitchen counter top. "Tomorrow I'd suggest you do a light run. What do you usually do, a mile?" I did respond here--"No, usually a little longer." "Well, what I'd suggest is that you go out to do your mile or two, and stop as soon as it hurts. You'll then know that you have run the perfect distance for that day." Get me out of here! "You should take everything I say with a grain of salt, though. I don't work with athletes." Thirty minutes of my life I'm never going to get back.
He finished up, never having gotten even near one of my trigger points. It was like having a finger painting done on your abdomen. I got dressed and went out to pay. "$30." I gave him my debit card. "Do you want to add anything to that?" Pause. "Um, no, $30 will be fine." He got huffy. He asked me if I wanted another appointment. I left silently. To keep it from being a totally wasted trip, I went by a bookstore and picked up the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. And a Starbucks. I needed it.
I got home and it was time to run. I had Tim work on my trigger points for free. Then I headed out. It was about 40 degrees, windy, and rainy. Great. The massage guy ticked me off, and now the weather was. During the first mile, my right side was kind of sharp. That ticked me off, too. At that point, I thought it was only going to get worse. I immediately dug into the trigger point with my fingers. I released and it felt a little better--not as sharp. Every time it threatened to get sharp, I did that. And it helped. It didn't take the pain away, but it kept it from overtaking me. And it kept it from spreading.
I haven't run fast in a really, really long time. I've been doing low heart rate training, and this beast of a pain syndrome has certainly slowed me down. Today, I felt good (and irritated) enough to let my legs loose a bit. I was running in town, which is relatively flat compared to the county (where I usually run). My first mile was 8:01. I decided that the next 10 miles I'd pick it up. Mile 2 was 7:12. It felt pretty easy. Mile 3 was 7:17. It felt very easy, actually. Mile 4 was 7:00. Miles 5 and 6 were 7:02 and 7:01. Miles 7 and 8 were both 6:36. 9 and 10 were 7:13 and 7:24. Mile 11 was 6:59. I don't know what 12 was since my watch died. My legs felt fantastic. In fact, I could have gone faster. The only one that sort of hurt was the second 6:36, as it was up Industrial Hill. I don't know why, but running (relatively) fast made me feel better. I felt like I was accomplishing something, like I was somehow winning. I had a lot of pent up tension to release.
Of course, this will make my 17 miler tomorrow quite difficult. Oh, well. Damage is done. And I won't be letting my legs turn over that fast again for quite a while. I just needed to today, and I'm not going to feel guilty about it. My pain was much better today, and I'm encouraged. But I know that it could be back tomorrow. It's a process. I hate this process. It's at least making for some interesting blog posts.