Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Continuing Saga of David's Legs

Welcome to this week’s episode of “The Continuing Saga of David’s Legs.”  In our last episode, David abandoned his weight training after aggravating his groin injury doing leg extensions.  It was a setback, but he was hopeful he could still eventually recover, while cautiously running 10 miles per week.

A week later, I decided to get more conservative.  There really wasn’t much to be gained by running a few slow miles on a treadmill, while wearing a compression wrap.  Why do anything to risk another setback?  Since then, I’ve done no training at all.  My number one priority is recovering from the groin strain.  If I can do that, I can start training from scratch.  It’ll take time to get in shape, but if I can train without injury, I’ll eventually get back in shape.

My plan at that point was to wait until I could to normal day-to-day activities without any hint of discomfort.  I wasn’t going to run until I was reasonably confident I could run without the compression wrap and still feel OK.  I expected that to take a few weeks.  At the time, I often felt discomfort if I absent-mindedly flexed the injured muscle while sitting.  I was a long way from being able to run.

For the next week, I wasn’t noticing much improvement.  By last weekend, I finally felt like I was turning the corner.  I wasn’t able to run yet, but I wasn’t noticing as much discomfort just going about my day.

I’m signed up for two races in February.  The first is the Los Angeles Marathon on February 14th.  Then I have the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon on the 28th.  In LA, I was going to room with my friend Aaron to save on hotel costs.  Realizing I wouldn’t heal in time for this race, I contacted Aaron to see if he could make other arrangements.  After finding out he could, I cancelled all my reservations.  LA isn’t happening.  I haven’t pulled the plug on New Orleans yet, but I won’t run it unless I’m healthy.

Sunday morning, I had another setback.  I still have issues with my legs getting stiff while I sleep.  When I wake up, I need to be careful not to move my legs without carefully restoring circulation into my legs first.  It’s a slow process.  First I bend one ankle.  Then I can carefully bend one knee.  I try to use my left leg, in case I accidentally trigger cramps.  After enough small motions with my left leg, it’s safe to move my right leg.

I’m a light sleeper.  I wake up several times per night.  I depend on getting back to sleep quickly each time.  As you might guess, the process above tends to wake me up.  Making matters more complicated, I can’t just go back to sleep without moving.  I can sleep on either side, or I can sleep on my stomach, but I can’t sleep on my back.  I always have weight on one shoulder.  To get back to sleep, I need to roll onto my other side, or my shoulder gets sore.

Early Sunday morning, I got careless during the night.  I tried to roll over in bed, and my legs cramped up.  The muscles in my right thigh contracted so powerfully, I felt pain in my groin.  It continued to hurt all day Sunday.  I can’t even sleep without re-injuring my leg!

For months, I’ve been assuming I could deal with one problem at a time.  First I’d heal from the groin injury.  Then I could gradually ramp up my running.  As I resumed my previous level of training, I’d go back to having good circulation in my legs.  Unfortunately, I have a Catch 22.  The night cramps are keeping my groin injury from healing, and the injury is preventing me from getting any serious exercise.

Yesterday, I saw my doctor.  I brought him up to date on everything I’ve done since I saw him last May.  We discussed both my groin injury and the stiffness and cramps in my legs.

He thought my stiffness and cramps might be a worsening of my Raynaud’s Syndrome, but he ordered a whole battery of blood tests to rule out other possible causes.  Since my appointment, I’ve received messages with the results of each blood test.  So far, all my results have been normal.

Each time I get a new test result, I have mixed feelings.  A normal result is generally good news, but I keep hoping one of the tests will point to some easily treatable condition, such as a nutritional deficiency.  It would be great if my problems could be fixed with a few pills or a change in diet.  Of course, there’s also a more ominous possibility.  Maybe they’ll point to a life-threatening condition that can’t be easily treated.

To figure out what’s happening with my groin, the doctor ordered a few X-rays.  They revealed two interesting findings.  First, the ball of my femur has a slightly abnormal shape where it fits into the hip socket.  Presumably, it’s been that way since I was young.  I used to have a fairly efficient stride, so that’s probably not causing any major problems with my running motion.  I also have some arthritis in my pelvis.  I don’t know if that’s contributing to my groin problems, or if it’s a symptom of running with an irregular stride for so many months.

To determine if I have any tearing that won’t heal by itself, I’m going to have an MRI.  That’s scheduled for next Monday.  On Tuesday, I’ll have a consultation with an orthopedist to go over all the results.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, when we’ll get the MRI results and hear what the orthopedist has to say.

Until then, I’m not doing any running, and I’ll try to be more careful not to hurt myself by doing high-risk activities, like sleeping.

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