It’s official. I’m crocked. I can’t run, and I probably shouldn’t cycle, but I can swim, yoga, walk. Still, crocked.
To back up:
Last week I booked an appointment with a physio clinic in Leeds. I’d asked my club-mates for recommendations and several had recommended X’s practice. I phoned X, he phoned me back, he was very nice and sounded like he knew what he was talking about. I made an appointment, but it was ten days away, as X works with a local rugby team and was accompanying them somewhere. I phoned him back as I was in a bit of a panic. I was still in conflict about whether to run the Manchester marathon, and I thought I’d better see someone sooner rather than later. He agreed, and booked me in with one of his employees. I had high hopes. Probably too high: I wanted a judgment on whether I should run the marathon, and also a long-term rehabilitation plan.
I turned up in time and waited outside. The premises are next to a hair salon, and physio clients wait in the salon but I thought that was odd so I sat outside the studio, which had the blinds down. And they stayed down. My appointment was at 4.30. That came and went. I began to wonder whether I’d got the time wrong. At 4.40, Y. came out. Now, some more backstory. Some club-mates had recommended X, but one who I trust had said he’d had a really bad experience with one of X’s physios and not to see anyone else but X. The night before I’d run alongside another club-mate who has been suffering with quad issues for months. She told me she’d seen a woman at X’s clinic who she described as quite dippy, and didn’t recommend her. When I met Y. I realised it must be the same woman. Never mind.
I sat down and she started to get my history. I told her: I’ve had the problem before, it went away, it’s come back with fell-running and – I think – because I now run in minimalist shoes and now forefoot-strike. I’d brought my running shoes with me, and pointed at them. She turned and looked at them, and didn’t ask to see them. Not a good sign. I told her I wanted to run a marathon and she asked how long it was. After she spent twenty minutes asking me questions, she got me to lie down. She massaged my ankle area, stretched my hamstrings, told me they were tight. I told her I thought my ankle was less inflamed when I ran downhill, particularly when I made sure to heel strike. She said, “you should try and do that all the time.” What, run downhill?
I asked if I should ice it or rest it or use heat. She said, “you should see which helps.” I asked if I should tape it. She said, “that might help,” but didn’t tell me how to. I asked if I should do the marathon and she said, “that’s up to you.” Really helpful. She suggested trying Biofreeze, did a bit more manipulation then said, “that’s all I’ve got time for.” I’d only been in there 40 minutes. Then she said they only took cash, so I left and walked up the road to a cashpoint. I heard “ROSE!” being yelled, and she was running up the road with her clipboard. I thought I’d stolen something. She said, breathlessly, that she thought I should see a sports medicine consultant, and that she was going to talk with her boss. That night, she left me a phone message saying she was now sure it was posterior tibial tendinopathy and it wouldn’t be a good idea to do the marathon.
So this is what she didn’t do:
— look at my shoes
— watch me walk, jump, move
— give me any clear advice
— give me any rehab exercises
— give me any long-term plan
I was furious. And despondent. I got home and did some more injury Googling. I read again what I’d read before, but this time it hit me: posterior tibial tendon problems can be progressive. They can lead to a ruptured tendon, knackered arch and flat foot. They could mean I never run again. I decided not to do the marathon.
And I booked an appointment with another physio. The Coach House is well-known in Leeds. Alison Rose, one of the directors, treated Jessica Ennis after she broke her ankle. The Brownlee brothers go there. I’d looked at it, as it had been recommended along with X, but it was £65 and seemed expensive.
I’ve just come back from my appointment. It was worth £65. It was like a mirror image of the idiot physio from last week. I was a bit nervous after last week’s disaster, so that after I’d made the appointment, and the practice manager told me I was booked in with Lucy, I looked Lucy up and saw she had been a competitive diver and knew about diving. A diver? I want a runner! I phoned back and said, with some alarm, “but does she know about running?” The practice manager calmed me down, reassured me they all know about running, and reminded me to bring my running shoes. A good sign.
I got to the treatment area, and Lucy first took my history. She looked at my shoes and orthotics. Then she asked me to walk, then walk on tip-toe, then on my heels. She got me to move in all sorts of directions, in all sorts of ways, from my toes to my upper back. This took about half an hour. She was calm and friendly but not unnecessarily chatty. I really liked her. Her professionalism gave me confidence. She finished checking out my movements then told me her conclusions:
— my upper back is very immobile (not a surprise, when my posture is so terrible); my extension upwards and sideways is very restricted and that limitation is probably impacting all the way down my body
— the ankle area is very inflamed. She said, “But we knew that already!” She said even the nerves that should be gliding were not gliding.
— she said she was most worried that the ankle bone felt so tender. She said, “it’s not presenting as a stress fracture but if we don’t do something about it and you keep running, I’d be very concerned”
— my glutes don’t fire, and my hip flexors are a tangle
Then she said, swiftly, we can work on all of it. She loosened my back for ten minutes, stuck her fingers into my hip flexors – OW! – and under my rib cage. At this point I remembered to tell her that some of my organs are stuck together with endometriosis. She said, with her fingers probing under my ribs, “that’s your liver,” but I have no endo excuse for that one. We agreed though that endo is a good excuse if for example my kidneys were up around my ears.
The most important thing she said, apart from the fact that I nearly have a stress fracture, is that I can’t run. No high-impact anything. The aim is to get my ankle pain-free and then start to strengthen it. Meanwhile we work on untangling and loosening everything else. She gave me exercises to do, but not too many, and she demonstrated them but more importantly gave me a sheet with them clearly pictured. She said she would book an appointment with the podiatrist for new orthotics, as mine were old and worn.
And she gave me confidence that she could help me. That, actually, is the most important thing of all. I want to get fixed. I want to get back on the fells, and I will do what it takes to get there. Even if I have to go bloody swimming.