Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Six Year Frustration

This post gets kinda person, but I'm so happy with this story's ending, I just have to tell it. 

Six years ago this month I injured my leg in Morocco while serving in the Peace Corps. I was participating in an exercise class with all women, near my apartment. It was a great way to be active and integrate at the same time. The instructor's methods were a little "90s" to me, but who was I to go against the grain. In this environment I just followed the leader while we lunged to the beat of Candyman by Aqua. Seeing women in this new light, being fit, and the pounding beats of early 90s technopop really make me want to come back for more. 

During one class we did some partner stretches. Being a dancer in my young life, there are certain ways of stretching that I was told are bad for you. No bouncing up and down to go deeper and be careful not to push too far past the comfort zone. The stretch I was doing with my partner was one that both our legs were spread out wide and we took turns pulling each other forward to get a deep inner thigh stretch.  Partner straddle stretch if you want to Google it. With partner stretches it is important that you can communicate with the other person since they are not in your body and you need to tell them when they are pulling to far. I didn't have good communication with my partner due to the language and cultural barrier. I couldn't express myself that I knew this stretch was unsafe. 

Suddenly my partner and I heard and audible pop and looked at each other in horror. Fire went up and down the back of my left leg. Oddly enough, I was the one of the youngest and fittest women in the room and I am the one that got hurt. My home was only about a 60 second walk, but I remember limping there. For the next 18 months in Morocco my hamstring/glute area never felt the same. I tried to continue to do yoga, but it hurt and I think I likely continued to do more damage. Long amounts of walking made it worse. 

After 18 months the issue was not gone, just to a point tat some sort of strength was beginning to rebuilt. In Morocco I had a ultrasound, a few visits of physical therapy, and a couple of massages from a friend, but again with a language barrier I was never able to get the care it likely needed. 

During different points in time the injury has manifested itself in different ways around the left side of my body. I know the injury site is deep within the insertion point of my left leg, but if felt adverse effects in my hip flexor, low back, and psoas muscles. I've spent dozens of hours online, trying to self diagnose, and I've had everything from piriformus syndrome, to sciatica, to a nerve injury or connective tissue injury. I've spent likely close to $2,000 in out of pocket costs on different doctors and therapy techniques, but still no one can give me answers to that scary pop six years ago. 

For the past six years, the most annoying part is the lack of full flexibility in that leg and the fact that most types of activity flare it up. Running, biking, yoga, all things I love would put me into pain that I just dealt with. Never was it debilitating, just annoying and sore and I just wanted to feel good. I knew I was having a huge issue with my left glute muscles because since the injury happened when I sit or lay down there was a tightness in my left butt cheek that make it feel like I was laying on bunched up sheets. It meant that I would constantly fidget in my seat or bed to have relief from the annoyance.

With each attempt at answers from a medical professional I'd come up with money wasted and no better off than I had before. For years a system of personal stretching techniques I used at least kept the injury somewhat maintained. 

A couple of weeks ago, while in physical therapy for the Graston Technique, (I do recommend) I decided to just Google "Why is my glute so tight". Like with many searches before, I found a forum where a man described a similar issue as mine and echoed my technique of not working the glute too hard as to make it even tighter. A person offered them the explanation that, sometimes if  muscle is too weak it can lock up and become unable to loosen up. He recommended some exercises to activate the glute and strengthen it, thus loosening it up. In my continued research of strengthening and stretching the glute I came across the proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching technique or PNF stretching (can be done without a partner). It is something I had utilized before, but only a couple of times. In just three days of following this advice I felt as if my issue had been eradicated by at least 50%. 50%!!! What would it be like in a couple of weeks? I am now about three weeks from that and I can say that my issue is about 90% gone. I can still feel that injury site and a bit of tightness in my glute, but it is completely manageable. I can feel the area getting stronger by the day. I can now bike, jog, and do yoga without paying for it! All this cost me no money and no time spend in a waiting room. I tell this story because for me, it's so exciting to be able to be active without pain afterwards. I don't even care about answers anymore, I'm just glad I can easily maintain this issue.