Welcome Back, Injury.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but here it is:  I think my injury is back AGAIN.  And I’m furious this time because I really didn’t see this coming!  I’ve been doing everything right the last few months, so I’m really upset, confused, and frustrated.

i just want to runYep.  Again.

In case you’ve missed my whole injury saga, here’s the short version:  for the past 3 years I just ran with no cross training or strength training.  After a few years of shorter races, I ran 7 half marathons in about a year and a half with very minimal recovery time in between.  Last year I began having some hip and sciatic nerve pain (literally, a pain in my butt) but after taking a few days off running it went away.  In October I trained for my 7th half marathon and began to feel extreme pain whenever I ran.  As soon as I finished the race (which was strangely pain free), I immediately stopped running and began physical therapy.  After a month of weekly PT appointments and no running, I was able to ease back into running in December.  Things were going well until February, when I thought I was back to normal and that I could handle fast speeds and lots of strength training at the gym, and the pain came back.  I decided to take another month or so off running and start the PT exercises again from the beginning, and I thought it was going really well.  I had no more pain, and was able to run pain free a few times after a month and a half off.  But after this weekend, I’m realizing something is seriously wrong.  I think the combo of disc golf for hours on Saturday (lots of twisting and lots of walking) plus the six mile hike on Sunday up and down along the Turnagain Arm Trail really irritated my sciatic nerve.  And to make matters worse, the pain is up into my lower back now too.  I’m currently typing this with a heating pad on my back to relax my muscles.

I’ve been kind of avoiding the blog all week because I just don’t want to deal with the truth.  But last night I had a little breakdown because I realized that this injury is NOT going away.  I can’t avoid dealing with it because I’m in some pretty real pain right now.  So even though it killed me to do so, I called my PT today and made an appointment for Monday.  I know that he’ll be able to take a look at what’s going on and possibly refer me to any additional doctors that I might need.  I’m really hoping I won’t need another MRI since I’m almost done paying off the one from last year, but I’ll do whatever tests are necessary at this point.  Now that I know that just taking a break and doing my exercises isn’t going to cut it, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to feel better and get back to “normal”.


The bad news is that clearly I’m not ready to run, even though the few runs I’ve done since February actually didn’t hurt at all.  And I’m also not ready to hike those big Alaskan mountains that I love.  I’m worried that something might be seriously wrong, because after resting these muscles for months I should not be in this much pain.  The good news is that unlike last November, the no running rule is not such a hard blow for me.  I don’t have pain when I bike or swim (which were both suggested by my PT), and the fact that I’m putting all of my energy into those two forms of exercise and into my triathlon training is helping this setback feel more bearable.  Plus, walking in the tri will be no problem at all.  But if I can be honest, I’m starting to feel like I’ll never run again.  And even if/once I get back to running again, I’m sure I’ll ever be able to do it without worrying about this injury coming back.  I’m starting to realize that this injury is making a bigger impact on my life than I ever thought possible, and it’s so heartbreaking.  It’s been over 6 months since this whole mess started, and I’m so ready for it to be over.

So my plan is to take it easy until I see my PT.  I’m so grateful that I started swimming because it’s fun, distracting, and pain free!  I’m also picking up my brand new road bike tomorrow and can’t wait to (carefully) try it out this weekend.  I’ll be fine with all of my non-running activities, but please wish me luck at my appointment on Monday!

Have you ever had trouble kicking a persistent injury?  How do you handle big setbacks?  What is your favorite non-running activity?

50 thoughts on “Welcome Back, Injury.

  1. Fingers crossed for appointment!
    I handle big setbacks with pure grumpiness, I must admit.
    Unfortunately I don’t have a non-running activity. I do yoga, kettle bell and stretching when I don’t run. Speaking of strengthening the ankles, legs and back. But because I am lazy, I do it only twice a week.
    Now I spend my Sundays with 20 – 30 mile runs… then two days rest, as my knees are not used to it yet and then shorter runs during the week…

    1. I’m pretty grumpy about this stuff too! And I think yoga is the best non-running activity out there. It helps you get both strong and flexible!

  2. Hey Kristen,
    First off I understand the heartbreak, most days it is near unbearable, I know as I deal with chronic shin splints, which I am always needing to compensate for with many hours of proactive training to keep them from coming back, alas they have come back as a result of doing a race that I simply did not do enough intense mountain training for, so thankfully the proactive exercises, and dnf’ing early kept me from getting seriously injured.

    Anyway, enough about me. Suggestions I will share are solely based on what I did, and continue to do, to pursue being the best athlete I can be everyday, and be injury free. I have not been to a physiotherapist in 8 years, but have had minor episodes of shin splints that I have resolved on my own, most due to my stubborn nature to not have to pay the expense of physiotherapy, lol. 🙂

    If I was you I would ask your physiotherapist for all of the knowledge you can get out of him/her on your issue, you might have to push a little as in my experience they love to jam pack their days and not spend the time educating. Then go out and find every exercise and stretching, and rolling technique that you can find that has been even remotely related to helping with your issue. Then create your own workout, with some or all of them. For example I believe my workout includes stuff for plantar fasciitis, not really related to shin splints.

    I have gathered so many exercises together that I now have an hour long workout I was doing a couple of times a week, when in training.

    I never found I needed to be an expert on the physiology of everything going on, but at least helpful to know the affected parts, and what I would want to have some extra focus on every week. So key questions are the following:
    1. What is affected? Why? And what can I do to make the pain go away.
    2. What is causing the problem? Why? And what can I do to prevent the issue from coming back? (ex other muscles that are weak due to a gait issue, so work on strengthening those muscles)
    3. What types of things trigger the issue? Had I been doing my exercises leading up to the problem coming back? Retrospectively, when did I first notice the issue coming back, and what is it that lets me know? (Identifying when the issue is just starting to come back, and taking action right away is imperative to being able to get rid of it fastest. Eventually you want to get to a point that you can predict when the issue will happen again, simply up frequency, and/or intensity, of your preventative measures and never see the issue happen).

    Granted my shin splints did raise their ugly head post race, but had I not been doing the exercises I would not have been shin splints free for the whole training season, and be in way worse shape than I am right now.

    Another thing is to be honest with yourself at all times, am I keeping up with the exercises necessary to keep injury away, even when training and feel great? If not what am I going to do about it, and when will I get started, since I claim that being a runner is important to me, and I do not want to get injured? This is probably the hardest as really what the questions are doing is forcing you to get honest with yourself, are you willing to do what is necessary to be an athlete? As opposed to someone who is just training when they are all healed again, and problem solving your way through some of the most undesirable situations. Not that there is anything wrong with resting until better, but I do not know anyone who calls themselves an athlete who is not constantly learning to be an efficient solution finder, as quite frankly it is unbearable to not be training for something, or at least being active year round!

    All the best to you with your journey to find solutions to your issue. I look forward to future posts on how you resolved it.

    Keep your head up, I know things seem bleak, but there is a solution, just a matter of how hard are you willing to work to find it, which has the correct specifics that works for YOU!

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. I love these suggestions! I love my PT and I know he’ll be willing to help me out. I’ve got a list of all the PT exercises he gave me and I’ve been rotating through them ever since February. I have been keeping up with them and I have been so careful, but I think the weekend of walking is what did it. Walking, hiking, and running are what causes it to flare up, which is frustrating because those are all so common for me! I should have turned around on my hike when I started to feel pain, but I didn’t think it would hurt this bad afterwards. I’m looking forward to getting some more answers next week so I can find out where to go from here.

    1. I’m hoping all of those help me too! I’ve been keeping up with the exercises but could probably foam roll more honestly.

  3. I’m so glad that you will have swimming and biking to keep you distracted while you work on getting this sorted out. Which you will. Have faith, I’m sure you will be able to run pain free again. I hate that you are going through this again. So unfair.

    Obviously I am not a doctor and can not diagnose your exact injury, but I have a lot of tightness in my right hip/glute/abs that causes my right hip to rotate forward and out of place. This creates a sharp stabbing pain (nerve pain, not muscle) in my hip/butt/lower back. Running aggravates it and makes it worse. Seeing a sports massage therapist who is also a runner did wonders for me. Also massaging it with a lacrosse ball against a wall every morning/night and before/after every single run. I went from being unable to walk without excruciating pain to running a marathon 3 weeks later.

    Anyway, my point is maybe try getting a sports massage in addition to your PT. Or ask your PT for some massage pointers to work on it at home (assuming he deems it appropriate. I can’t state this enough, but obviously don’t follow my advice over your doctor’s!).

    1. Love these tips! I think last time I saw him it was all so new and I “recovered” quickly so I didn’t get to try many different recovery methods. I’m definitely going to ask him for recommendations on what else I can try this time.

    1. I swear I was keeping up with mine! Maybe they don’t work anymore? I’m hoping he can figure out what’s going on or refer me to someone who can.

  4. I am so sorry to hear that your injury is back 😦 I hope your PT is able to help/refer you to a doctor that can give you some guidance as to what is going on. I know I am not much help in NY but my hubby is a chiro so if you need anything, let me know. ❤

    1. Thanks! I’m hoping that he can refer me to some good doctors who can help me out. I really trust him and think he probably knows which doctors are the best for this!

  5. Boooo, this stinks big time! I totally understand the whole “not wanting to acknowledge the reality of the situation,” but I’m glad you’re being smart and that you called your PT. Fingers crossed that he can get you back on track.

    1. Yeah, I was ignoring it on Monday and Tuesday hoping that I was just sore, but I was definitely in pain by Wednesday. I felt like such a loser calling them back, but they were really nice about it!

  6. Unfortunately, these types of injuries tend to be linked to something bigger. You might want to talk to a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doc to see what they might be able to find out or the direction to send you in. I am so sorry, girl! You know I understand the frustration.

    1. Yeah, I’m definitely starting to think this is something bigger than I thought. I’m hoping my PT can recommend the right doctor for me, I definitely trust him and want to find a doctor like him which might be hard in Anchorage. I figured he was the best place to start, but I’ll look around and see who else I can find!

  7. aw I’m so sorry to read this 😦 Ya know, running is really rough on the body no matter who you are. I just met a lady the other day who said she ran 6 miles everyday, but now that she’s 40 she had to get her knee replaced and she said, “look what all that running got me! old and fat.” HAHA I’m not sure what the moral is here besides maybe this is happening to you NOW to prevent something worse from happening in the future. Idk. I never had such a persistent injury, but I really hope you can just stay strong and focus on being healthy no matter what!

    1. Haha I actually like your story! I’m glad it’s happening now so I can fix it, but I’m also frustrated that this is happening before I’m even 30. I’m glad I have some back up activities that I can do without pain!

  8. I’m so sorry. Injuries are honestly more emotionally debilitating than physical. I’ve had countless injuries hamper my training over the years and it’s so frustrating. Wishing you speedy recovery and good cross training in the meantime.

    1. Thank you! I totally agree about the emotional part – I have no idea when I’ll be done with this situation and it’s scary!

  9. Oh no! That’s no fun at all. I’m sorry to hear that your injury is giving you trouble again. It’s great that biking and swimming don’t aggravate it, though. That will make this much easier than if you had to stop doing everything. I have an ankle injury that flares up about once a year, without rhyme or reason, it’ll just suddenly cause me tons of pain and I won’t be able to walk. I had an MRI and they found that I had a full tear in one of my ligaments, but that surgery would not help. I’ve just had to live with the fact that the injury will come and go… it’s no fun. I hope the PT will help you out. Good luck moving forward!

    1. Oh no! I’m worried that I have something like that too. It sucks because running, hiking, and walking all irritate it and I do all of those things so frequently! I’m glad that I have at least a few things that don’t hurt. Biking and swimming have been life savers!

  10. Oh no – I’m so sorry to hear about the return of your injury 😦 From what you’ve described it sounds very painful. I totes understand the awfulness of low back pain having just recovered from it myself. Although I was only off two months it seemed like an eternity so I can imagine how frustrated you must be having dealt with the issue for much longer. I’m glad you are able to at least cycle and swim in the meantime to stay fit!

    One thing that really helped me was dry needling at a few PT appointments. Have you tried it? I found it really helped my muscles relax, which helped speed recovery by a lot!

    1. Thank you! Injuries suck! I’ve never tried dry needling but would probably be open to it. My muscles definitely need to relax a lot!

  11. i’m so sorry to hear this, kristen. i know how aggravating this injury has been for you and how scary it can be when you don’t know what’s going on and you have been doing everything right. fingers crossed that your doctor can either give you answers or refer you to someone who can. i’m so glad you found activities you love that can keep your mind occupied while you recover, but i’m still remaining hopeful that your first love of running will be back in your life soon!

    1. Thank you! My husband was joking that at this rate I should rename my blog “Swim Away With Me” because I’m doing more swimming than running. But running will always be my first love!

  12. I’m sorry to hear you’re hurting! I hope you feel better soon! My fiance is a DPT, and he often really amazes me by fixing things quickly with a few stretches/exercises. I hope that magically happens for you! Keep your chin up and stay positive – that really is a form of medicine! =)

    1. I hope that works with me too! It did back in November (at least for a while) so I’m not giving up hope yet!

  13. I hope your PT can figure out what is going on, or refer you to someone else who can. Really, this was kind of heartbreaking to read and I feel so badly for you (and I know that wasn’t really what you were going for).

    That cross training will do you a world of good. Do you think maybe you just tried too much, too soon when starting back up? Ok, truth is I don’t know, obviously. My IT issues come & go, but they’re mostly under control. But it’s so frustrating to feel like you do everything right & then wham! The same thing keeps happening over & over.

    Sending many positive vibes your way.

    1. Thank you! I am kind of heartbroken right now so I get it. I do think that I was doing the right thing up until this last weekend when I hiked way too much. Hiking never hurt me before so I didn’t expect that to happen, but I guess it was too much on my body. I hope my PT can help me out, even if it’s just finding me the right kind of doctor that I need right now.

  14. Oh no! Sorry to hear about your injury. The main thing is that you’re on top of it before it becomes too much again. Hope you get to the bottom of what is happening and you can make a 100% recovery even if it means sitting out for a while.

    1. Thank you! I’m hoping I get more info about what’s going on now that it’s become a recurring thing!

  15. I am so sorry.

    I tore my calf in the fall of 2014 and still have lingering pain and discomfort in it sometimes. I totally empathize, it is so frustrating.

    Have you considered water jogging? It’s a common form of training for injured runners and since you’re already in the pool now it might be something to consider. It might help to strength all the muscles you need for running but with zero impact to your body.

    Big hugs, my friend.

    1. Oh no I didn’t know that! God these stupid injuries suck! I have thought about water jogging! My gym has a class on Mondays at noon, which of course I can’t make. What do I need if I want to do it myself? Do I just jog in place in the deep end?

      PS I can’t thank you enough for helping me with all this tri stuff, it’s the only thing keeping me sane right now!

      1. You just need the floaty belt to hold you up, then yes, just run in place in the water. I’ve heard it’s super hard but awesome to maintain, and most likely gain running strength and stamina.

  16. Its so hard to face the reality, and I completely understand why you were avoiding writing this out. I certainly hope that you’re able to find some relief soon, so that you aren’t sidelined for a lengthy period of time.

    1. Thank you! Yeah it’s hard to have to write it all out, but I’m all about keeping it real on here even if everything is a mess. I’m hoping I’ll have some better news soon!

  17. Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear this. With my injuries (weak hips and glutes) my PT basically told me that I would need to do prehab as long as I was running. Over the last year I’ve also had other random little injuries which has stopped my from running as much as I’d like – so I appreciate how frustrating it can be. I would grill the PT about what muscle imbalances are causing this and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. At least you have a new passion to get excited about.

    1. I’m probably going to need to prehab as well. It sucks this is something I’ll need to do forever, but I’ll do whatever it takes! Although I’ve been doing the exercises for a while now and clearly something is not working 😦 I’m hoping I get some good news from my PT or at least referred to a doctor who can figure out what’s going on!

  18. Noooo!!!! I’m so sorry you’re in pain again 😦 I hope that you get more concrete answers as to what it could be so you can fix and make it go away..permanently!! Keep your head up! xoxo!

    1. Thank you! It’s so annoying. But clearly something is up so I’m hoping I can get a good recovery plan in place!

  19. When I am injured I spend more time in the pool. I also switched to a run/walk strategy while running which has helped. I trained 6 months for a marathon, injury free. I may not be the fastest but I made it to the finish line in good shape.
    Hang in there !

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