Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and these opinions are solely my own. One should always use their own judgment when seeking treatment for any kind of pain or injury and consult their physician as needed.
We’ve all been there. Plantar fascitis. GI issues. Shin splints. Tendon and muscular problems. These problems for anyone, including runners, can not only be annoying but can be debilitating. Injuries are the worst, especially when you’re training for a race. Injuries are frustrating, painful, confidence shaking and as we’ve all learned they can derail our progress.
After having to take
weeks months off of training due to a pretty serious case of shin splints, I was thrilled to get back to my workouts, now pain-free. I started slow, I listened to my body, I single-handedly drove up the stock price of various brands of kinesio tape. And then one blasphemous day in July, while stepping onto a curb, my right foot slipped and I came down very hard on my right foot. I felt like I tweaked my lower back but kept about my day, as it didn’t seem like a big deal. Just stretched a little more that day. The next morning I had an intense dull ache around my tailbone. As I would walk the area around my piriformis muscle began to ache and a tingling progressed down the back of my right leg to the bottom of my foot. This got worse the longer I walked and became intolerable to run. The only relief I would get was from sitting or bending over and taking some pressure off the nerve. Of course, no one can run that way. Unless you’re Phoebe Buffet.
Sciatica. I’ve heard of it. I know people that have had it. I’ve never personally experienced anything quite like it. But I knew that’s what it was pretty early on. I don’t have time for this nonsense, I’m mid-season with TNT and I already lost 4 months last season and missed a race.
What is sciatica, anyway? Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve — which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body. (Source: The Mayo Clinic. Click here for further information on sciatica)
I called my chiropractor, who is amazing and treated my shin splints. Had two visits, but my symptoms were not improving. Running was out, and walking was very uncomfortable. So I asked her about acupuncture, since there’s a practitioner in the same office. I made an appointment and saw her the following week. Now, I should say this, I’ve had acupuncture before and already swear by it. So I may be a bit biased. But I did it for relaxation, not for pain management, so I was hopeful, but not sold.
Visit number one was good. I always reach a deep state of relaxation, but my back muscles were so tight in my lower back that I knew it was going to take some time. Visit number 2 was two days ago. One of the needles was placed along my sciatic nerve relatively low on my hip. Bear in mind, I can’t see any of this because I was face-down. She told me this one placement was “going to feel really weird.” I felt nothing for a few seconds and then a deep ache in the same spot I’ve been feeling it. I had some needles along my lower back, back of my leg and inside of my ankles and then she turned out the light, left me alone (on a heated table which was awesome) and let me rest for about 30 minutes. I fell asleep.
When she came back the level of relaxation was ridiculous. I wasn’t tired. I was so relaxed I keep saying I was drunk with relaxation. Luckily this was the evening and I went home and fell asleep for the night. When I got up, I wasn’t as stiff as I had been. Standing in the shower wasn’t torture, and running around at work wasn’t as irritating. This morning I still went out with my team, but I didn’t run, just walked. There were a few times that I had to stop to stretch my back out, but I got in about 5 miles and was not in any more pain than I was in when I started. I even took another walk later in the day. Today I am more comfortable than I have been in a few weeks.
Did acupuncture cure me? Too soon to tell. Did it help with symptom management? Absolutely.
Here are my general thoughts on acupuncture. I once was afraid of it, but the needles actually don’t hurt at all. Every now and then one might hit a sensitive spot, but in general, they don’t hurt and you can’t feel them when they are in. I have never done anything that can relax me the way that 30 minutes of acupuncture can. And the relaxation effects for me last several days. It’s non-narcotic, which means I don’t have to worry about side-effects. This approach has several benefits and I have found it to be extremely effective. I would definitely recommend it to others and suggest that if it’s something you’re curious about, talk to your healthcare provider and consult with a practitioner to see if it’s a good option. I will continue to report on my progress with it over the next couple of weeks.
To read more about acupuncture check out the National Institute for Health National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Have you tried or ever wondered about acupuncture? What was your experience?