My legs look damn good on X-ray film.
Kidding. But only sorta.
I finally had my orthopedic appointment yesterday at Georgetown, and the news is good. I can run again!
I started the afternoon with the ortho resident, described my problem and my history with stress fractures — I had two major ones while in high school thanks to a whole host of eating/exercise/health issues, and they sidelined me for nearly a year — and identified where the pain is now (in my fibula, the outer and smaller bone of the lower leg, a few inches above the ankle). He felt around, did some range-of-motion stuff and then said that although it was tender and looked a bit swollen, stress fractures in the fibula are extremely rare and, in fact, he’s never seen one.
Hi, my name is Emily, and my body defies all rules. Nice to meet you.
I went for an X-ray and then waited. And waited some more. And waited a little bit longer.
When I finally got a few minutes with Dr. D, he first scolded me for being stubborn and a creature of habit, like all runners are. Fair. I’ll cop to that. But in my defense, I did stop running when the pain started. Anyway, he did a similar exam and looked at the X-ray film.
Now, generally stress fractures are too small to show up on X-ray, so for a definite diagnosis you need a bone scan. I did this when I fractured a metatarsal in my right foot, even though the injury was pretty clear. My second one, which I seem to recall was in my left tibia, was obvious on X-ray, as were more than five other fractures that were either healing or about to break all up and down the bones in my leg. UGLY. Needless to say, I spent months on crutches and in one of those stupid walking boots.
The film yesterday showed some thickening around the area and what Dr. D said could “arguably be a small fracture,” but it wasn’t the war zone it once was. A step in the right direction?
The good news about the fibula is it bears only 1/6 of the impact of running, while the tibia takes a much tougher beating. Therefore, injuries to the fibula are much less severe. It may be mostly healed, or it may get a little worse, but it’s not a huge concern when it comes to exercise.
So Dr. D’s final word? “You can run until it makes you miserable.”
BRING IT ON.
But before I jump back into it, I’ve got a strategy to make sure I don’t end up on my ass again:
- New shoes. I haven’t bought new shoes since last May because I didn’t do much running over the course of the winter, but I’ll be headed to Georgetown Running Co. (a High Cloud sponsor) to do the full gait analysis process. I’ve been buying shoes from my running store at home for so long and they know my history so well that I haven’t actually done a full workup in years. I think it’s about time.
- Inserts. I wore inserts after my previous injuries but haven’t done so for years. I need something rigid to fix pronation problems.
- PT. I don’t have the time or money for regular PT, nor do I need it for recovery or rehab, but I would like one or two sessions that would help me figure out what strengthening exercises I can do to prevent future injuries, particularly as I ramp up mileage in all my tri disciplines.
- Sticking to the pool and soft surfaces. For at least the next couple of weeks I’ll be mostly on trails and the track to minimize the pounding on my bones. I’ll also continue to do a lot of my runs in the pool, particularly the long ones. Amy had a great idea of splitting between road and pool so you’re still getting the full 18 or 20 miles but only half the impact.
But the end result of all this? I’m back at it and have added a little bit of knowledge to my training plan in the process.