Thursday, 15 April 2010

Hello, I'm Neil...

I’ve known Neil for about 10 minutes and he’s asking me to take my tights off. This is certainly not the direction I anticipated this encounter would take. Let me clarify something, Neil is my Physiotherapist and this is my first appointment with him. I’ve been referred to discuss my shin splints, knee problem, the possible cause and cure.

We spend a bit of time when I first get there talking about my hobbies and exercise habits, how the different injuries felt, when they occur(ed) and what I do as a day job. He’s a very personable chap and I start to feel less like a hypochondriac as the session goes on. He starts by getting me to walk up and down the office, first in shoes and then without. I feel as though everything I do is somehow wrong. It’s at this point that he asks me to take off my tights (he does leave the room) and I spend the rest of the session trying to remember when I last shaved my legs, wondering if I should have worn trousers and feeling very glad that I wore shorts-style pants rather than a thong.

We do some mobility and flexibility tests, a few stretches that cause all sorts of different muscles to hurt and make me feel rather inadequate. I start to wish I’d kept doing yoga. I think we establish that there’s a tender spot to the lower right side of my right knee but in general there aren’t any aches or pains except for those from the exercises. Now we get to the sciencey bit. Neil starts explaining what causes me to get shin splints and knee pain with the aid of a wall chart showing all the muscles in the human body and lots of proper names for them that I immediately forget. My walk is like that of a supermodel, but regrettably this is not a Good Thing. My muscles are all far too tight, I underpronate and my glutes have no strength. He asks me to bring in my walking boots and running shoes next time.

I shall now give my wholly unscientific and badly remembered explanation of the cause of my leg problems. Because of the above, and “possible” (which I know to be certain) twisting of the hips the muscles down the fronts of the legs have to work harder to keep the leg and foot stable and as they work harder and expand there’s not enough space for them inside the “stocking” that keeps them all in place and so it causes pressure which is what I feel as shin splints. The twisting is worse on the right side, which is what brings the knee into play. He thinks the muscle on the outside of the knee moves around, which would explain the sort of clicking feeling I get when this gets bad.

By this point I’m mildly concerned although none of it really surprises me. I’ve known for a long time that my hips are a bit twisted, it’s been that way since birth as far as I’m aware and has been cited as the reason I sometimes get shoulder pains when carrying bags. So what to do? My biggest fear is that he’ll tell me I can’t run for months. I tell him I’ve got a 10km at the beginning of June. He hums and haws a bit and says that he doesn’t recommend running or walking long distances for another couple of weeks but I should be able to ease it back in after that. I may have to do the race on a months training but he doesn’t rule it out. Phew. I think I’ve done the right thing in not running for a few weeks. Cycling is fine provided it doesn’t bring on any pain and the gym classes should be ok too. He talks me through four stretching exercises that I need to do, three of which need to be done 10 times a day, but only one rep each. This habit will need to be formed quickly.

The session is ended by Neil “mobilising” my legs, which is kind of like a massage followed by some intensely painful leg extensions, which do seem to have an effect on how well I can do some of the stretches I was made to do earlier, and some ultrasound on my knee. I have reservations about ultrasound, mainly because I can’t see or feel any benefit yet. We agree to meet again same time next week to see how I progress. I’m allowed to put on my tights and shoes again, I shake his hand and I leave, possibly trying to walk more like Clint Eastwood than Cindy Crawford.

I keep thinking of questions to ask next time, such as how permanent the treatment will be. Is there anything extra I can do for my glutes? I really hope this helps and that I don’t have to stay off the running and walking for too long. Maybe Skip and Tone classes are the way forward!

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