Monday, June 29, 2015

A Visit to the Podiatrist

When it comes to my running, I'm a bit stubborn, especially when it comes to injuries. I've been fortunate that in my time running most of my aches and pains have been taken care of by rest, a couple of chiropractic adjustments or a new pair of shoes.

But lately I've had one that just won't go away. When I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2013 the uneven streets did a real number on the Achilles tendons in both of my ankles. The pain has been off and on since then, so I've just run through it and dealt with it, because it didn't bother me THAT much.

As I've increased my mileage this year -- or, more to the point, increased the frequency of my running -- the pain just seemed to hang around longer, and even hurt when I'd pinch the tendon with my fingers. It seems like I'm good for about three miles or so, but longer than that and my body starts compensating in different ways, the Achilles in my right leg gets really sore, and my stride gets short and choppy.

So, for the first time, I made an appointment with a doctor for what appears to be my first real running injury. When Matt was having foot problems his senior year of high school, his coach suggested we go see Dr. O'Brian, a podiatrist and surgeon in Roselle. It didn't take long for him to get Matt back up and running well, so I hoped he could do the same for me.

Dr. O'Brian is a true running doctor...he was once a runner himself and specializes in running injuries. When you enter his office, his waiting room is full of signed pictures and articles from local runners (mostly high school and college runners) that he has helped during his career. Even more impressive is one wall that is completely dedicated to All-Americans, as close to 20 certificates adorn the space.

I was ushered into a waiting room, and Dr. O'Brian arrived a few minutes later. I don't know how much he runs now (he's in his 60s), but he is still slightly built and looks to be in great shape. He first looked at my shoes and then began probing my feet and ankles.

What I like about him is that he is very thorough, he takes the time to ask a lot of questions, and spent a lot of time explaining the anatomy of an Achilles. I know of a few friends who have torn theirs and expressed my concerns about the same thing happening to me. He said the crazy thing about the Achilles is that often times there is no rhyme or reason as to how or why it tears.

He told me that he recently did surgery on a girl who was lining up for the final 400 meter race of her high school career, and her Achilles popped as she pushed out of the block. His own daughter tore hers running around the house playing with her cat. Kind of crazy!

One of the more interesting things he did is he had me stand flat on the floor. The bones in our feet have an alignment where each bone is in a perfect position and the entire foot is working together. Unfortunately, most of us can't position our feet this way! In my case, my hips are a bit misaligned and my right foot pronates, which isn't the most efficient way of doing things.

So he went to work on a homemade set of orthotics for me. Taking a leather insert and using some foam, he carefully cut the foam with a knife and even added a lift in my right shoe to help with my hip alignment. They feel a bit weird but I've worn my shoes around today and I feel like I'm getting used to them. Actually my Achilles feels better!

He also gave me some stretches, some hot/cold therapy stuff and explained an idea to me that I hadn't thought of before. He said that as we age, the amount of maintenance it takes to keep running goes up, so that looking at it as a whole, the stuff we need to do to keep running: the stretching, injury prevention, sleep, nutrition, etc. takes on just as much -- if not more -- importance than the running itself. That certainly makes sense to me.

I went for a run tonight with the new inserts and didn't feel a huge difference in my Achilles -- it will probably take a bit to stretch it out and the soreness go away -- but I did feel more stable and everything else felt better! I'm going to really try and be vigilant with this as I'd like to have felt like I made progress by the time I start St. Jude Marathon training in the next few weeks.

It's a start, and I feel like I'm on the right track!

1 comment:

  1. This doctor sounds amazing! I love that you were able to find someone who has personal experience, as well as the medical training, to fully understand what you are going through and what your needs are. I really hope everything you are doing will help and you are able to start marathon training in a few weeks!