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Weekly torture sessions and thrice weekly mirror gazing

Updated: Apr 24, 2022

In my first blog I mentioned a new treatment and rehab plan that I’m starting for an injury in my hip area. I’m only three weeks into the plan and I’m quietly, but confidently, saying that it seems to be working.

Anyone who follows me on Strava may have noticed that I have gradually increased my weekly mileage, but it’s my positive comments that say it all. I’m running pain-free. This doesn’t mean I’m suddenly cured; I’m being careful with what I’m doing – not too far, not too fast – but there is definite improvement. I’m still feeling an ache in my hip after running, but not as bad as it was, and it doesn’t last as long. I still haven’t done an all-out, give-it everything run, but a decent effort at parkrun last week bagged me an age category win (yes, it was a relatively small field at Southall parkrun, but I’m taking it!)

After just a few weeks of treatment, for an injury I’ve been carrying for around four months, I must tell you about the treatment that I’ve been having. It’s a two-pronged approach of shockwave therapy and weighted rehab gym exercises. Both are new to me, and I’m already converted.

But what is shockwave therapy you may be thinking. Well, it’s a lot more painful than ultrasound therapy, if you’ve ever had that, but it’s similar in that it’s non-invasive, delivered via a hand-held probe and the therapist rubs lashing of that clear gel on you, just before they start zapping. The procedure involves sound waves being passed through the body. It’s not electrical, so it’s not like having an electrical shock, it’s more like a quick pulsing sound.

I’m obviously not an expert but I’ve listened to the doctor and done some reading, and the way it works is by ‘shocking’ the body into increasing blood circulation and metabolism, thereby promoting increased healing. It seems to me it’s more like an extreme way of encouraging the body to self-heal, in a similar way to a sports massage. For anyone interested in reading a bit more there are some detailed reports from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence including research to suggest it could work for plantar fasciitis. Another injury I’ve had before!

Just like a deep tissue sports massage which can be a bit painful at times, shockwave therapy is a bit painful too. I think it can be just a little uncomfortable for some people, but when it’s administered close to a joint, like it is with me, it’s simply excruciating. I don’t want to put anyone off, especially as it appears to be working, but all I can say is that I’m glad masks are still a requirement in medical settings – the mask definitely muffles my screams! The bruising it leaves behind is quite dramatic too. I’m keen to hear if anyone else has had shockwave therapy and what it’s been like?

But that’s not all. The sports doctor insisted I also went back to physiotherapy (I’ve gone to his preferred partner) and he’s put me on a rehab programme not like any rehab I’ve done before. Instead of giving me a handful of low impact exercises to do two to three times a day, he has me lifting fairly heavy weights, three times a week in the gym. Much to my disappointment, he didn’t give me a massage, (I actually like a deep tissue massage, would you believe) but took me into the room next door where there was a fully stocked gym. He proceeded to show me how to correctly perform dead-lifts, squats, bridges and split squats, all with weights that I could only just pick up. I thought my form was perfectly fine when it came to squats and the like, but it seems not.

I often do a bit of strength work, but only at home, and mostly using only my own body weight and a couple of small dumb bells we have lying around the house. I already knew that weight training works by creating tiny muscle tears, which when they repair themselves makes them stronger, and larger. But I hadn’t really appreciated that you need to work those muscles much, much harder than I was doing, to really make them noticeably stronger.

As I needed to lift at least 10kgs and more, I had to join a gym. Something I hadn’t done for about twenty years. Luckily, I found a local, cheap and quiet gym and I’ve managed to fit it into my routine. When I’m back running four to five times a week, I can’t honestly see me keeping this gym malarky up quite so regularly, but I do now see how what I was doing before was inconsequential.

After just three weeks I feel so much stronger and stable around my lower torso. I don’t really get any DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness – that ache the next day after a workout) now, as long as I stretch afterwards. I’ve also started running the short journey to and from the gym so I still get to do a 5k run and the run back probably does help flush out some of the lactic acid that would otherwise contribute to the post-workout stiffness.

So I’ve slipped into a routine of a weekly torture shockwave session and some thrice-weekly mirror gazing at the gym. On the plus side, I’m now over half-way through the torture sessions. (Always first thing Monday morning, what a joy!) And my next physio visit is certain to mean the introduction of even more extreme gym rehab.

I’m actually a very grateful and compliant patient. Crucially for me, it’s not surgery. Even if it doesn’t work, there is no lasting damage whereas surgery can have you laid up for weeks, even months, and it can create all sorts of new issues. This is a great alternative, that, so far, I’d take every time over more surgery. I’ve had two ankle operations, the first was successful, the second left me with scar tissue far worse than the initial problem. I’m literally, physically and mentally, scared by previous surgery and I don’t want to repeat that.

I’m very lucky that the private medical insurance I get from my employer is covering the cost. As a perpetually injured runner, I have certainly had my money’s worth from private medical insurance over the years. However, at the risk of speaking too soon, maybe, just maybe, this is the best value for money that this runner has ever had. I’m crossing my fingers, nursing my bruises and running happier than I have for months.

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