Sweeping It Under the Carpet: a Cautionary Tale

Today’s post is a lesson on not ignoring glaring tissue restrictions just because they are asymptomatic. It also highlights the important of staying on top of your maintenance work and easing into new activities.

Let my pain and missed training serve as a stern warning.

So, a couple of years ago, my (previously) poor movement habits culminated in a nasty meniscus tear in my left knee. It took the better part of a year to get under the arthroscope to get it cleaned up, so I spent a few months limping around on a very fussy knee. One of the features of my particular limp was that I constantly had to keep my foot on the affected side in dorsiflexion (toe pulled back towards the shin, for the uninitiated). This allowed me to avoid the staggering jolts of pain that came if I let my toe drag across the ground, but left me with a pretty rotten case of tendinitis in the front of my ankle (extensor digitorum longus tendinitis, if you’re curious).

While I was undergoing post-surgery physio for my knee, my therapist was nice enough to put out the fire in my ankle as well, which was really cool of her. After that, I totally thought I had the problem dealt with. No pain, no problem, right?

GUESS AGAIN!

After training for and participating in my first 10k run a few months ago (powerful, Bluenose) that familiar burning in the front of my ankle resurfaced. It was like some sort of hideous monster had retreated into stasis, waiting for the right time to awaken and strike at my gains. It started slowly, with the odd occurrence here and there, but now it has worsened to the point where any resisted dorsiflexion (especially the push-up position) is painful.

What this demonstrated to me was that even though I had the ankle fire professionally extinguished, the arsonists (my tight lower leg bits) were still at large. Just for the record, were it not for my meager income and lack of health benefits, I would have been in the therapist’s office as soon as I smelled smoke. Instead I’m doing my best not to fan the flames while I catch up on a few months of mobility work and try to feed some slack to the tendon.

The whole point here is that I could have easily prevented this reoccurrence of tendinitis if I had been more diligent in cleaning up my poor busted-up legs after running. Not only that, but I should have more thoroughly investigated what caused the inflammation in the first place, and made certain any remnants of that issue had been dealt with.

So don’t sweep your tissue problems under the carpet just because you’re not in pain or they’re inconvenient to work on. When you’re returning to activity following an injury, make sure you understand why that injury occurred and do everything in your power to prevent it from happening again. A few minutes of mobility work is well worth it to keep you in the game.

Feel free to share your “I should have known better” stories in the comments! Live and learn.

 

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2 thoughts on “Sweeping It Under the Carpet: a Cautionary Tale

  1. Pieter de Wet says:

    Hi, I have the exact same history. Nine months rehab for right knee. Your whole fire story is an exact description of my experience. I run very much the Pose style with using the muscles above the knee (hammys, glutes, hips) to pull my foot from the ground rather than pushing hard with the big toes and the calves. This I believe can create some overuse in the front extensor muscles and tendons, as the extensors must lift and hold the foot instead of the recoil from the push off. My question, how did you get rid of the arsonists? Tx

    • Mitch Tate says:

      Hey Pieter,

      There’s actually not an undue amount of stress put on the anterior shin musculature in Pose, as you don’t really pull the foot back (dorsiflex) forcefully at all. You actually relax the ankle as you pull, so the foot is in line with the stance leg and your calf has a chance to relax. Or did I misunderstand, and you’re saying that the alternative is what causes those issues? That would be more accurate.

      MobilityWOD has a bunch of great videos on recovering stiff tissues from running. Just go to the website and search with the running filter. It might also serve you to make sure your running technique is properly dialed in, as movement issues tend to be the worse arsonists.

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