This is a guest post from Lifestyle patient Patti Sperline.
I am a chronic self-diagnoser. When faced with pain, I turn first to the almighty Google. I take the well-intended advice and opinions of friends and family members as gospel. I make glaring assumptions about my body and its functionality without the benefit of professional assessment. So it has been since I first began moving my body in any kind of exercisey way, which was sadly much more recent than I’d care to admit.
I went from smoking a pack a day and drinking excessively to running 2 full marathons and one-half marathon in the space of a year. I faced a lot of pain, but I subscribed to the old adage of “no pain, no gain.” I figured it was a rite of passage – part of the experience of being a runner. I pushed through the pain, tried different types of shoes and made diagnosis after diagnosis based on magazine articles and WebMD. Basically, I’m every doctor’s worst nightmare.
I first met Dr. Dillan a few years ago, after I crumpled to the floor in a useless pile of gangly limbs during a warm-up at my CrossFit gym. A warm up! My back was completely immobile, and I had pain shooting down both legs. Dr. D fixed me up, and within a few weeks, my spinal mobility was better than it had been in years.
Since then, I’ve been less than consistent with both chiropractic care and with Physical Therapy, even though my body has responded well to both. Old habits die hard, and I went right back to pushing through the pain. It’s really easy to tell myself that other people have worked through much worse… that I probably just have a low pain tolerance and I should suck it up and keep moving.
Several months ago, I started having horrible pain in my ankle/Achilles area. The first diagnosis from friends in the fitness community – my calves are super tight. I should mobilize them and it will take the strain off the joint. I worked on them – sometimes – before or after WODs, and got some pretty painfully therapeutic massages from Adam. I was always told that I should be doing more mobility work and PT exercises, and I tried to keep up with the recommendations, but it usually lasted a couple days at best.
The pain got worse, and I found that any motion that required me to come up onto my toes – running, jumping, weightlifting, even rowing – caused great pain in the Achilles area. Next diagnosis: ankle sprain, and likely minor tearing of fibers of the Achilles tendon. Coaches, friends, and the internet all recommended that I stay off of it. Ha! I kept running for a while until I literally couldn’t. I went hiking every single weekend in the summer. I wore good boots, but often would sprint down the mountainside, pain be damned. I took one day a week off at best at the gym.
Eventually, I was in so much pain that I was wincing with every movement. Finally, a coach and friend lectured and shamed me enough to convince me to stop running, jumping and rowing for a while. He said I should give it a minimum of 3 months, and focus on movements that didn’t involve bringing my foot into extension. Cue squats, squats, and more squats.
I was growing SO frustrated at the gym, and getting VERY tired of the Air Dyne Bike as my sole form of cardio training. I had registered for a partner competition at the end of January, and I was becoming concerned that I wouldn’t be able to perform well, if at all.
Then, Sean and Kayla came into the gym for some on-site assessment and care. After a few minutes, Sean was able to quickly assess the situation… not a sprain, though it appears that I’ve probably had them in the past based on the scar tissue in the joint. The problem, though, is an impingement of the big toe. I had never even THOUGHT about my big toe as being the problem, but it all made perfect sense when he explained that the big toe tendon runs through the arch, the heel, and the Achilles and attaches in the calf – literally ALL of the places I was feeling pain.
In less than two weeks of consistently doing the PT exercises he prescribed, as well as ongoing care from both he and Kayla, I am already feeling an unbelievable improvement. I did box jumps today for the first time in months. I ran across the street and didn’t feel like my Achilles was going to rupture at any moment. I am now looking forward to being able to compete fully in my competition in a couple weeks.
This is absolute proof of one thing: knowledge is power.
Had I gotten professional help for my pain at an early stage, I probably could have avoided months of misery and frustration. But my stubborn nature and old-school mentality about pain cost me valuable time treating problems that didn’t exist. This is a hard-learned lesson, but one that I desperately needed to learn. Will I keep up with my PT and be quicker to seek help next time? I would love to say “Hell yes!” But the reality is that it may take a while for me to change those old patterns. I need to remind myself that pain is not weakness, but it is a signal from the brain that something needs to change. Now that I know I have the tools and resources available, and that the choice is mine to utilize them, I am committed to making better decisions in the future.
Here’s to a happy, healthy fitness journey!