Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Last week, I was full of complaints about aching hips.  I’m sorry to say that the saga continues.  Here’s what happened this week in the Land of Angry Hips:

Running rest day #2!  I did get myself to yoga class, hot yoga to be exact (not to be confused with Bikram).  75 minutes of vinyasas, warrior poses, and ab work left me sore for days.  A very good workout!
I also bought a lacrosse ball as suggested by another Jen, who has similar hip/glute pain.  I used it for massage — it was the definition of “hurts so good.” Yowzas.

Running rest day #3!  I did my usual stretching & rolling routine, which I typically do 4-5 times a week, and added a few planks for fun.

I was feeling better, so I went on a short test run around the neighborhood — 3.5 miles at 10:25/mile.  Unfortunately, I still had lingering aches and pains despite 3 days of rest.  It was bad enough to convince me to set up an appointment to see a sports chiropractor, as suggested by several people on the last post.  In retrospect, some of those aches could probably be attributed to the hot yoga from Monday, but the soreness was still worrisome.

No run, but I went to check out the local pool for my first swim in years.  As predicted, the experience was extremely awkward and humbling, but like I always say, you gotta start somewhere!  The facility isn’t super great, but it’s close by, not crowded, and very reasonably priced ($4 for drop-in lap swimming!), so I hope to make swimming a weekly activity.

Another easy run around the neighborhood, this time a bit longer: 4.5 miles at 10:32/mile.  Compared to Wednesday’s run, this run was significantly less painful.  My left hip only complained every so often, which was an improvement!

On Friday morning, I had an appointment with a sports chiropractor, Dr. J, whom I saw based on KP’s recommendation.  Dr. J is a certified practitioner of Active Release Therapy (ART).  From my understanding, ART is basically super intense sports massage focused on the injured area(s), accompanied by movement and stretching.  From my own research and based on this article, there is actually very few (to no) published scientific literature or studies that support ART as an effective therapy for myofascial pain.  The only thing that has been shown is that “knots” or trigger points (i.e., nodules that form in the muscle tissue as a result of injury, weakness, overuse, inflammation, and/or trauma) can be identified with MRE (a cousin of MRI) — so at least they are structurally distinct from healthy muscle fibers.  Despite the lack of scientific studies, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence indicating that ART decreases pain and increases range of motion.  Interestingly, trigger points, which are supposedly located at the same areas in all people, significantly overlap with acupuncture points.  Acupuncture is itself fairly controversial, but I think it’s interesting that both approaches share the same basic anatomical map of the human body.

Anyway, I decided to give Dr. J and the whole ART thing a shot.  The first thing Dr. J did was to do a very basic analysis of my gait, just to make sure nothing was obviously wrong.  He also checked my hip height to make sure my hips were even.  (They were, thankfully.)  Without any apparent biomechanical issues, we moved on to the ART.  As anyone who has undergone ART knows, it is extremely painful.  After Dr. J identified the huge knot in my left hip, he went to town on it.  He pressed hard on different areas and instructed me to move my legs in specific motions while he did so.  Sometimes it was so painful with the pressure alone that I did not think I could move my leg at all.  I vacillated between whimpering, to screaming “OW”, to laughing because I was thinking about how crazy it was that I was paying someone to put me in this much pain.  I also laughed because I didn’t know what else to do.  It seemed like an appropriate response at the time.  In addition to my left hip, Dr. J also worked on my right ankle, which is the one I broke 5 years ago and still lacks a significant amount of range of motion.  This hurt even more than the hip, perhaps because I wasn’t expecting him to work on it at all.

Immediately after the appointment, I could see that my ankle did appear to be more flexible than before.  As Cathryn would say, “Result!”  The jury was still out on my left hip, but I figured it could be sore from the manipulations for a while.  Dr. J, who is very low-key and straightforward, told me that everyone responds differently to ART.  Some people feel 100% better after one session, while others feel little to no improvement at all.  I appreciate that kind of honesty.  He told me to note asymmetries in my day-to-day activities, such as while I’m sitting and standing, and to try to correct any imbalances in posture.  In terms of self-treatment, he suggested getting a lacrosse ball (done!) and also adding some strengthening exercises to my routine (e.g., lunges, single legged squats).  He said that I could go back and see him if I thought the ART helped, or for a PT-like session where he could give me a list of home exercises and demonstrations.  It’s too soon to say whether the ART “worked”, but I think that going for an appointment was itself helpful, in that it committed me towards taking action on the issue.

I hoped to get some solid miles in during the weekend, so I opted for run-walk intervals of 5 minutes running to 1 minute walking.  I ended up running 5.8 miles at 10:01/mile.  I was very happy with the pace and, more importantly, with the lack of hip pain afterwards.  Progress!

My goal was to run 2 hours on the trails, again with intervals of 5 minutes running, 1 minute walking.  While I was doing leg swings during my warm-up, I noticed little to no pain on my left hip, but a twinge on my right hip.  That was weird, I thought, but I figured it was just tight and would loosen up after I warmed up.  The first 60 minutes of the run went okay.  The twinge in my right hip got more noticeable, but I was still able to jog fine.  Then, over the next 30 minutes, the twinge became so painful with each landing that it was affecting my gait.  It felt like a hip flexor issue, so I tried to stretch it and even tried to change my running form slightly, to no avail.  After 90 minutes, I decided to stop running for fear of making it worse and just walked the rest of the way.  I ended up with a total of 9 miles for the day: 8 miles of run/walk at 11:15/mile and 1 mile of walking.

Hobbling back to the car, I became extremely frustrated with my hips.  One side finally got better and then the other revolts.  WTF?!  I just want to have a pain-free run, is that too much to ask?  I know that things could be a lot worse, but I confess to feeling very sorry for myself for a little while.   I even went to Wendy’s and drowned my frustrations in a spicy chicken sandwich, fries and a Coke — desperate times call for desperate measures, y’all.

Hours later, my right hip is still bugging me, and the left hip is fine.  All I know is that whatever is going on with the right hip is different from the left — the area of tenderness and the onset of pain are very distinct.  The only thing I can think of is that by breaking up that scar tissue in my right ankle, maybe that somehow change my biomechanics and my right hip has to relearn how to move?

Anyway, enough with the hypothesizing.  What am I going to do about this?  Well, for one thing, I’m taking a good long break from running, perhaps this whole coming week.  Worst case scenario from a long rest is that I lose some fitness, whereas worst case scenario from continuing to run is that the hip problems persist.  Instead of running, I’ll attempt to stay fit with lots of cross-training: I’ll swim at least twice this week, go to yoga once, and join a gym to use the elliptical and bike.  Additionally, I’ll continue to stretch, roll, and do strengthening exercises.  I’m optimistic that I’ll still be able to run Big Basin, if I can nip in this in the bud.  Fingers crossed!


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in Injuries
8 comments on “Everything But the Kitchen Sink
  1. Angela says:

    Call it placebo or whatever you want, but ART has been one of the only things I’ve found that consistently does something for my hip flexors & abductors. (Graston too, but from what I understand, that works basically the same way.) The way my PT explained it, they find the places where the fascia has grown together to protect the muscles, press hard, & then while you move your limb through the range of motion, the adhesions are gradually torn apart. (Supposedly the lacrosse ball–which I heartily endorse!!–partly does the same thing, though it’s also just good for getting tight/traumatized muscles to stop clenching up & chill out.) At this point I’ve just accepted that I have spend like half an hour with the lacrosse ball on my hips, adductors, glutes, & calves after every run in order to stay healthy, and I definitely notice a difference in how I feel after!

    • Jen says:

      Yes, I think ART and Graston are the same thing, except that Graston uses a metal tool whereas ART is just manual manipulation. Only 1 week in, I’m already a big fan of the lacrosse ball too!

  2. I’ve heard varying reports on ART, some people have great results, but others have seen zero change. I wonder how much of it is in your own brain, y’know?

    Anyway. you won’t lose fitness by taking a week off of running, don’t even sweat it!! XT, and do the strength exercises, and use the lax ball, and you’ll be back at it soon, I’m sure. Be patient!

    • Jen says:

      Well, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but the placebo effect is extremely powerful. Our minds can convince us of a lot of things! Regardless of whether ART “actually” worked, my left hip is holding up really well, so I’d say it’s helped me.

      Thanks for the reminder to be patient. Definitely one of my weaknesses!

  3. Brianna says:

    I agree with what Heather said you won’t lose any fitness if you don’t run for a week, even if you didn’t cross train and took a week off from exercise all together. It takes 2-3 weeks of no running to lose running specific fitness so you should be fine with one week off.

    I like your idea of trying different cross-training exercises. Who knows, you might find something you really enjoy that might be one part of your weekly routine 🙂

    • Jen says:

      That was actually what I was thinking, too, Brianna, about finding a new exercise (or exercises) that I enjoy! I’ve been meaning to get back to yoga and swimming for a while now, and these injuries have forced my hand, which is actually a good thing. I think it will be better for me in the long run (pun intended) to mix running with other activities.

  4. vttrailgirl says:

    Well, *dislike* on the pain. Good on you for getting in the pool.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Astrid. I’ll wait on the chiro visit — my right hip has gotten a lot better in the last 24 hours, though my low back is now a bit tender after this morning’s swim. I’ve got a case of the traveling niggles!

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