DIARY: What the Physio Told Me

My good friend Jannick was kind enough to drive me out to the Shankill Physio Clinic straight after work Thursday, so just one day after the injury happened during the Leinster League race.

I had gotten the clinic recommended from mountain runners on the IMRA website, and had already convinced Jannick to go see Angela who runs it earlier. Jannick has suffered from a longterm knee-injury, making sprint sports impossible for him, and lately a shoulder injury had curtailed his gym visits! His feedback was good, so I had no doubts that I shouldn't repeat my mistakes from last year and try to recover on my own.

Getting Back Fast!
Real runners never go see a doctor, because we know what he'll tell us. "Two weeks rest, here's a prescription for diophene. That'll be 40 bucks..."

For most people dealing with injury, the first priority is getting painfree and healthy. Runners just want to be able to run again, pain or no pain. Given this, I can understand that we must be a difficult crowd to work with, but luckily most physios are way superior to doctors, because they understand that we want to hear how we get back racing again, not how we can walk around the house with little pain.

Enter Eugene!
Angela couldn't make the appointment herself, so her able assistant Eugene took over. He had just treated fellow mountain runner Mike Hanney for the "damage" done to his leg during his successful Belfast marathon in the weekend. This added to my belief that I was in the hands of the right man!

Mike was on his way to cryonic therapy in Whites of Wexford (which sounds great, check it here). I'm looking forward for Mike's feedback and will probably take a weekend off to go down there myself. Being stuck in a cryochamber at -110Celsius does sound a wee bit cold but if I was convinced jumping into an acid tank would heal my leg, I'd do that too!

Well here's hoping they don't forget him! Mountain runners should die of hypothermia in the mountains. Dying of hypothermia in a luxury hotel just ain't right...

The Examination
The physiological examination was completely painfree and very quick and to the point. Eugene had no doubts that it was a meniscus tear, which is the same diagnosis my colleague Hans, former international coach for the Dutch raceworkers, had given me in the office earlier in the day. I guess I owe him 50 quid as well...

I was given a few simple rules to follow:

1. A set of exercises (semi-squats etc.) to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee
2. NO running or FULL SQUATTING for a week (*sniff*). I'm currently looking into taking up swimming...
3. For the second week, run 20-30 minutes and then do the exercises to see how the knee will react to pressure after stress. The durability of a joint changes dramatically once it is put under pressure.

Normal recovery would be 3-6 weeks, but this is individual, and few have done it in 2 weeks. I'm setting it as a personal challenge to make it back for the Bray race.

Apart from this I was already making my own plans, incorporating several of the ChiRunning exercises into this drill. To keep myself sane, I luckily have my workbench and my PowerBreathe.

Altitude Training and Injuries
Friday morning at 7:30 I went to my usual Altitude Training session, and my consultant Emma was very optimistic: "I've seen rugby players with broken bones in their legs back playing after 3 weeks, you could be back in less than 2 weeks".

The Altitude Training is meant to propel my form up to a high during June and July, so that I have a better baseline. I'm not expecting hitting anywhere near "proper fitness level" before August, given the sedentary lifestyle and complete lack of serious athletic activity in my previous 27 years, so the Altitude Training acts as a sort of "buffer" or "artificial boost" until then.

As an added bonus, however, Altitude Training is believed to facilitate healing and recovery, so doing this training during my injury should speed up my recovery.

Chinese Herbalism
Our HR Generalist at work, Gareth, has numerous bruises and breaks to his name, incurred from the brutal sport "softball" (they must have named it wrong or something...), and he recommended a herbal remedy to me from one of the Chinese shops downtown.

I was already using coldspray and Arnica on the damaged area just below my left knee, so I thought following this advice could not harm. As I entered the shop I was offered a free consultation and a Chinese doctor (who had a translator no less!) told me that he recommended zonetherapy, vacuum glass application and Chinese massage. While I could see the point behind inserting tiny needles into the injured area to restore maximum bloodflow, the whole package was about EUR90 and I was running late for an appointment, so I politely declined.

If I get desperate, the needleman is first on my list!

I got my liquor, however, a whisky looking liquid consisting of menthol, methyl salicylate, turpentine oil, and camphor. It smells strong (but not as bad as Gareth let me believe, maybe its just me!) and heats up your skin nicely when appplied. In addition, I got some pills working against infection (apparently), and special herbal plasters that will apparently eliminate wind damp and improve blood circulation.

These are to be worn 8 hours per day for the next 7 days but my injured area is so small that I can cut the plasters into half and have 14 days worth of supply!

My Supplements
A healthy diet is of course the main factor in quick recovery, and so is plenty (but not excessive) amounts of sleep.

Apart from that, I have always supplemented with Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar necessary for creating cushioning fluids and tissue around joints, such as cartilage. This makes it essential for runners as you'll have to eat an inordinary amount of shellfish to get the same benefits. A meniscus injury is basically a cartilage tear, so Glucosamine will not only prevent longterm cartilage damage (my main reason for taking it, call it insurance for a hopefully 50-year long running career), but also speed up the rebuilding process.
Chondroitin is another sugar and works in conjunction with Glucosamine. Its main function is to reduce the levels of enzymes that break down cartilage.
MSM stands for methylsulfonylmethane and is a sulphur that stimulates the production of Glucosamine adn Chondroitin as well as various antioxidants (this is a very important, as any kind of physical stress produces a large number of free radicals, only antioxidants can safely pick these up and neutralise them). Its considered central for overall join health.
Together this trinity of products have probably enabled to dive, pretty much untrained, into a sport that is excessively strenous on joints and ligaments with little ill-effect. Now I'm counting on them bringing me back to it quickly.
In addition, I take plenty of Omega oils. They are vital for pretty much everything in the human body, but are essential for joint health as well. I don't like most fish, mainly cod and flatfish (the fish with the lowest concentrations of Omega oil), so there is no way around this supplement unless I suddenly find a craving for tuna and salmon...
Good old Treatments
My grandma told me, I didn't believe her. A health shop clerk told me, I believed her. Apple Cider Vinegar is one of nature's wonder drugs and I take a spoonful every day.
I'll start to up the dose to 2 table spoon fulls three times a day. Apple Cider Vinegar has an enormous amount of healthy properties. it metabolises fat (and I have 5% I don't need for anything, and there's no need to drag them up the mountains).
People have reported it works against flu, arthritis, allergies, acne, chronic fatigue, as well as acting as a blood pressure controllant. Its also a powerful detoxifier.
Doctors believe the positive effects against flu and allergies is connected to its high concentration of minerals: phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron (runners will recognise most of these as essential for their performance). These are present in normal apples as well, of course, but in the Vinegar the concentration is higher.
If you're going to a new country you may also be delighted to know that a glass of water with apple cider vinegar taken before a meal will prevent most cases of diarrhea or digestive upsets.

All in all, its believed to be good for all of the following: thought to be helpful when used to treat asthma, nose bleeds, osteoporosis, cancer, candida, high cholesterol, colds, constipation, muscle cramps, colitis, diabetes, diarrhea, depression, dizziness, ear discharge, eczema, fatigue, gallstones, kidney stones, hay fever, headaches, heartburn, hiccups, indigestion, insomnia, kidney and bladder problems, metabolism, nasal congestion, sore throats, stiff joints, ulcers and weight loss (so ladies, no reason to go blow a fortune on Puerrh Tea, or whatever its called!).

That's quite a list! So I'll keep taking it and hope it helps the healing process. If you don't like the pure taste, I recommend adding it to your favourite tea or juice as it'll give it a distinctive "bite". its also great with honey. If heated, it can be applied directly to the skin as well to treat any soreness or injury.

Read about it here.

Well, I hope anyone who gets injured can benefit from this little "talk-through", it was fun writing it anyway, as it puts into perspective just how much power we have to heal ourselves. We don't have to sit back and sulk which is easy, given the physiological phenomenon called "runner's depression". That, though, is a topic for another day.

Goodnight folks...


Anonymous said…
Cheers Rene, thanks for all the free advice should I tear my meniscus - reckon I'd swim to work, soak my feet in soy sauce, and down a gallon of cider before bed ;-)