Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who knows? It just might help.

As you know (if you read this blog at all), I've been trying a lot of things to manage my abdominal pain caused by MPS.  Massage, injections, adjustments, a trigger point ball, rides on the TENS machine and, as of yesterday, Thumper.  I have neglected to mention that, last week, I bought a pocket TENS unit from my chiropractor.  It's basically a mini version of the big dog they hook me up to in the office.  It involves having four electrodes hooked up to you (see picture below), and the machine delivers electronic "stimulation" (that word should be shocks, if you ask me).

It really kind of hurts while you have it done, especially the first time.  When it gets really going, it feels like you're being kicked.  But, I'll tell you, never do I have my "usual" pain when I'm on the TENS machine.  For that reason, I like it.  And that's why I spent the $100 and bought a home unit.  Tim has been using it as well--on his sore calves, back, and foot.  I've been using it on my back and abdomen sporadically throughout the day.

Last night, I had a thought.  What if I wore it while I ran?  It is pocket-sized, and the package instructions talk about how portable it is.  It even has a little clip on the back of it.  Perhaps it was even made for runners?  I asked Tim what he thought.  "Who knows?  It just might help."  Then he told me I should put it on and run around the block.  I did so.  It's hard to tell much in that short of a run, but I knew that the stimulation from the TENS certainly covered up the usual pain.  I was sold.

So today was a trail run with Wes, dad, and Tim.  We were going to run 10 miles on the trail that I know as the "Run with the Foxes Trail."  That's not the name of it, and I can't remember the real name, but there is a trail half that is run there every spring, and that's the name of the race.  It's a pretty challenging route in terms of hills, and a lot of the footing is quite technical.  It may be a beautiful place to run, but it's not an easy place to run.  I was excited to try my new New Balance Minimus trail shoes, and even more curious to see how the TENS unit would perform.  Now, Tim and I had devised a way for me to carry it.  It's pretty small (see picture below), but the main consideration were the wires that connect it to the electrodes on my belly.  We decided to put the unit in my Camelbak, and Tim would tape the wires up so they wouldn't bounce.

We got to the trail and we were all preparing to head out.  I had not told dad or Wes that I would be wearing the TENS.  Tim was getting me set up--applying the electrodes, taping them on, etc. and Wes said "What the hell are you doing?"  I looked like some kind of science experiment.  I explained what I was doing and acknowledged that it seemed crazy.  He, of course, understood.  I wasn't sure of what intensity I should have Tim set the unit, so we started pretty low.  I could feel it twitching pretty well, so I assumed that would be strong enough.  So, there I was.  Four electrodes attached to my abdomen.  A pocket TENS unit in my Camelbak.  My torso slightly gyrating due to the electricity.  Okay, let's run.

We set out.  I definitely felt the TENS unit, and it definitely covered up the other pain.  I have to admit that it feels strange to be having electrical stimulation performed on your abdomen while running.  It felt absolutely weird.  But I didn't care.  It was covering up my other pain.  My legs were feeling a lot better than on Thursday, and I had fluids with me this time.  The trail was beautiful.  The hills were quite tough, but I didn't mind.

Want to know why?  Because, though I sort of felt the sensation of being kicked in the gut by a child, I didn't have any stabbing pain.  Around the 3 mile mark, I felt the usual pain start to "break through."  I had Tim increase the intensity.  That took care of it.  I had him increase the intensity twice more during the run.  By 6 miles, it was only two "notches" away from maximum stimulation.  When we stopped to use the bathroom, they could see my whole upper half shaking.  How could we not laugh at this situation?  I mean...really?  What on Earth is wrong with me?  What do you think Dr. Russell is going to say when I tell him I did this?  All I know is that, though I acknowledge it was weird, it helped a lot.  So I was happy.

There was genuine concern that I would be electrocuted during a creek crossing (and, to be honest, it felt more intense when I did so in a very deep crossing--but nothing close to electrocution).  We were trying to come up with ways I could carry the unit during a race.  We also realized that I need to be able to adjust the intensity myself.  Several times I felt the usual pain start to come in.  And I wanted to punch it into submission by increasing the intensity, but I couldn't because the unit was in my Camelbak.

We finished the run and, all in all, I really enjoyed it.  Don't get me wrong--I do not desire to wear that torture device during my runs forever.  But if it can get me through for now?  I sure will.  Just takes a lot of tape, batteries, and a little explaining to fellow runners.  I fully intend to wear it on tomorrow's 19 miler.  It will be interesting to see if the stimulation keeps the pain at bay on a run that long.  I told you I was willing to try anything.

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