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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Last year at this time I was just beginning physical therapy and not feeling so confident that I would get better. I’d been injured for over half a year and had gone through a lot of exercises that only helped so much. I’d moved from burning to do my fitness activities to just wanting the pain to reduce so I could start to move around my house. When an injury drastically reduces the parameters of your world, it’s hard to feel optimistic.

Well, today I did my yoga with no more than the usual pain anyone in my (diabolical) teacher’s class might experience and then I went for another short (Chi) run—and noticed that since I’m getting faster, I must be ready to add a little more distance. What a difference finding the right treatment makes.

Anyone who has been injured knows that finding the “right” treatment is often no easy task. So many providers, so many programs, and so much conflicting advice—bleh.

My therapist kept pestering me to see this physical therapist who she swore had fixed several people who had spent years believing they were permanently wounded. Quite frankly I was getting very annoyed with her for bringing up his name each session when I limped in to see her. She—who had never before really understood how much exercise mattered to me—was starting to understand that if my body didn’t heal, her work with me was just beginning.

So finally I said, “No más!” I called him and began the two-tier odyssey that first got me out of chronic pain and then got me back doing my workouts at a level much closer to my past levels. Quite frankly it was only my own fear that caused me to delay my return to running for several months after he taught me how to start again.

My daughter’s injury journey is much longer than mine. She definitely has learned to live with the pain and her changed lifestyle. However, she is only twenty! A track injury that only healed so much—despite a lot of painful physical therapy—followed by another one that—despite more painful physical therapy with two different providers and several inconclusive tests—has limited her choices. She walks to classes because she has to and she skis because she wants to do so, but otherwise this formerly active young woman doesn’t move much.

Though she has stopped letting herself believe in living an active lifestyle, she still would like some way to stop the pain that comes even without moving.

After my healing, I’m more likely to feel hopeful than she is. In fact, I just signed her up for physical therapy—again. This time she gets to see the person who got me believing again. Trust me, just as Train sings, “I stopped believin’ although Journey told me ‘don’t’ . . .” (“This’ll Be My Year,” California 37) Let’s just say before we call it forever (and a day), we’re going to try one more time. And if I have to do the exercises with her, I will.

You never know, maybe 2013 will be her year—and my year too—to get back on (the) track—or anywhere else we want to go.


(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

Was hoping to have a delightful topic for the letter “D” but after today’s dastardly physical therapy appointment, I will have to defer. No, my words for today are dry needling, a practice which seems debilitating this afternoon versus disencumbering.

What you ask is dry needling and why would a person pay to have someone do this to them? It’s been just under a year since I set off on a road trip to pick up my darling dog and returned unable to do many everyday activities, let alone the vigorous physical ones I enjoy. Dry needling is just the latest step in my quest to become healthy enough once more to run off all this crazy energy I tend to have—and it seems to be worth the short term pain in exchange for the long term gain.

I tried reduced activities, massage therapy, acupuncture, electro-stimulation, chiropractic, and exercise therapy, all of which reduced the pain, but none of which returned me to anywhere near the condition I was in before I set off on my journey. I wasn’t prepared to submit to cortisone injections in my spine nor give up yet on my way of living.

So after six months, I began physical therapy with a practioner licensed and trained to perform the dry needling—which is another way to try to get the painful trigger points in muscles to relax enough for all these focused exercises I’m doing to have a chance at helping them operating more normally. No medicine is involved, but the needles go in deeper than with acupuncture. If you want to understand dry needling from a more technical angle, read what my physical therapy practice has to say. Apparently if you are already pain-free in an area, dry needling won’t hurt; however, I don’t really know anything about that because why would you let someone do something like that if you weren’t in pain??!!

My main pain and mobility difficulties had been in the L-4 area, radiating down through my left hip, hamstring, calf, and foot. Not only couldn’t I run anymore, but even walking the dogs could be painful just after walking a block or two. After seven sessions and great improvements in my energy levels, mobility, and pain reduction, I was set “free” just to do my exercises.

But walking (and my attempts at running) never really improved as much as I’d hoped. In fact, now my right side began experiencing a different type of numbing pain, all the way down to my foot. In fact, my hardest activities continued to be those where I ambled: shopping in stores, milling around while waiting to sing in church, talking to people while standing, etc. I’d finally had enough a few weeks ago when I forgot something while shopping in Target and didn’t want to backtrack the extra 100 yards to get it. Something wasn’t working if I, a runner not so long ago, thought I couldn’t walk 100 yards more.

So now I’m back for more torture, this time in both my calves. Kind of makes that spinal dry needling seem pleasant. But because my back is so much more flexible and pain-free, I am willing to work to get my calves loosened up, too. I’ve got dogs to walk, dance moves to step, miles to run, and—apparently—supplies to buy in Target before I sleep.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, but I have to go rub Arnica cream on my calves. Sorry if that doesn’t start with a “D” but I think that’s a healthier activity for me than drinking.

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Anyone else a runner during the running boom of the late 70s? Do you remember that some time later some studies came out that said running was actually harmful? What about the stir raised when running guru James Fixx died from running? I didn’t pay much attention to the hype, but it seemed the media often chose to pick up on the “running is bad” concept without analyzing studies or considering other factors.

I just thought a lot of people were looking for a reason not to do an activity they didn’t like in the first place. You know, the kind of people who are always doing the latest thing whether or not they enjoy it and whether or not it’s good for their bodies. I think the media buzz is happening again with yoga (and like it did with aerobics and Pilates and . . .)

Yes, I learned the truth—at seventeen—that running could hurt me. I ended up getting fitted for orthotics which helped me recover my health long term. The podiatrist said that running didn’t cause my imbalance problems—it just accelerated how soon they showed up and began affecting my life. Never again did I have the same obsession with running nor was I as naïve about the helpfulness of running, but I didn’t stop for good—I liked running.

You see, I didn’t run because it was “in” or the cool thing to do. For the most part it was a lonely experience, except for when I could meet up with my friends to do it or be part of a track or cross country team. Yet running often soothed my soul. I truly believe this was how I managed my undiagnosed ADD for so many years.

Enter real life obligations, children, and another undiagnosed condition that worsened—asthma—and running became less frequent in my life. It got to the point where I knew my weight gain was a risk factor for running, yet I didn’t know how to keep down my weight without running. This time I ended up with an injury common to inflexible, heavier, long term runners of a certain age: plantar fasciitis.

After that injury healed enough that I could use my feet, I switched to walking. Didn’t “everyone” say that was healthier anyway? I walked and walked—and continued to gain weight. With my feet problems, I couldn’t do any hard core land-based aerobic activities. So . . . I signed up for my first yoga classes.

By that point my lower back was hurting so much that I couldn’t get out of my chair easily. While I did find that yoga was helping in so many ways, maybe it wasn’t enough or maybe it just wasn’t fast enough. When I told my doctor, she thought I ought to add Pilates classes first to see if I could avoid physical therapy.

Here’s the deal: with yoga, Pilates, and walking, I did start to feel better—everywhere, but especially with my back and feet—and that ADD mind. And then I started to lose weight which meant I could move more vigorously, enough so that I could return to running and begin doing ZUMBA dancing.

So are all those things to blame for my recent back injury? Well, maybe. However, I will point out that my injury surfaced after I took off a week from exercise while spending most of that time sitting in a car.

Now that yoga is the new evil activity, it must have been the real cause behind my injury, right?

Really, I think that living and aging are behind my recent physical woes. As far as I can tell, people can get injured by moving—or not moving—or both as they age. When my father needed back surgery, it was because he carried excess weight and did not move unless necessary.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather earn my badges of aging from activity versus inactivity.

So I’m not going to stop practicing yoga even if I am more likely to modify my poses now. I have always gone to restorative yoga classes led by mature instructors who aren’t fostering a competitive environment. And I will argue with a teacher if I think a pose goes against the advice I am receiving from the medical practitioners treating my condition—if I’m not going to believe them and follow their advice, then I need to stop seeing them.

I guess I have to say that if people don’t like to do yoga, then they should not be doing yoga to please others. They can take their chances lifting weights, swimming laps, or sitting in their Easy Chairs while I’m holding a Downward Dog—or attempting to get back to running again.

Maybe we’re all just running against the wind trying to maintain our bodies in the face of time, but I’d rather move than sit down to wait for the Grim Reaper to find me.

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