Let's take it way back to May 2014....
In May of last year I was coming off of a rough spring season because of this constant nagging pain that I had been experiencing. The pain/discomfort shows up in the following places all along the left side of my body:
- Groin - top of thigh
- Hip - lots of tightness and loss of flexibility
- Low back into piriformis area (sciatic nerve)
- Tightness in mid back accompanied by that feeling of "it needs to pop"
At the time all of the symptoms were very manageable and served as more of an annoyance than anything. Around the same time I got the news that I was chosen for a spot in the Chicago Marathon and training proceeded to kick into high gear. Throughout training the symptoms were very manageable and would come and go so I never felt the need to back out of the marathon. When you're running 200 miles a month, things are going to get sore, tight and a little uncomfortable. I was keenly aware of how I was feeling and knew when to back it off on occasion.
Jump forward to October 2014 and the Chicago Marathon! (you can read my race report here ) One of the post-race tidbits I didn't tell too many people was what happened after the race. I hobbled my way back to the hotel room and Brandon got an ice bath ready for me. When I went to get into the tub I lifted my right-leg over into the tub with no problems (just the normal "hey you just ran a marathon" soreness). When I went to lift my left leg into the tub it would not move. Literally, would not flex or move. I had to pick up my left leg and bring it over the side of the tub. The pain was intense at the top of the thigh into the groin and I couldn't bend it. I knew something wasn't right but didn't know what. After Chicago I took two months off of racing (except for that little 5K I ran two weeks later. Inured. Stupid, I know.)
After some actual time off things started to feel better and Spring 2015 racing season was underway with a few 5K's and ending with the Fairview Half Marathon in April where I set a new PR. The week following the half we took a vacation to Jamaica which allowed for some much needed rest both mentally and physically. Once back in town I tried to pick running back up and that's where it all went downhill. The four pain points I listed above came raging back but this time they weren't manageable. I consistently couldn't make it past 2.5 miles in a run and the pain would stop me in my tracks. At the end of May I waved the white flag and surrendered myself to the notion that I was injured. It was no longer just annoying, but now it was stopping me from doing what I love. My last real run was on June 1, 2015.
June 2, 2015 - I made an appointment with an ortho and went through the usual round of x-rays on the spine, hip and pelvis. I had an MRI Arthrogram (for those not familiar, an MRI arthrogram is where they put a big long needle of dye down into the joint. Buckets of added fun. >sarcasm<) done to confirm there was no labrum tear. That came back negative, whew. I spent several weeks (and a lot of money) with a physical therapist. After seeing the PT, doing all of my PT homework and not doing ANY running or strenuous physical activity for 4 weeks I wanted to test the waters. I wasn't expecting to be cured, but I was expecting to see progress. I went out for a run and didn't even make it a half mile before the back pain and pain radiating down my leg flared. Frustrated would be an understatement.
I took all of my x-ray images and MRI results in for a second opinion and FINALLY things started to make a little sense. This wasn't an issue isolated to my hip, but rather something going on in my spine that was causing a domino effect of issues. MRI #2 was done on the spine. On my way to pick up the results from MRI #2 the whole drive over all I could think was "If that report says that everything looks fine and dandy, I'm going to lose my shit." (Pardon my french, but that's the filtered version.) There is NOTHING more frustrating than dealing with chronic pain that countless hours spent in doctor's offices and buckets of money being dumped into tests, only to be told "we don't know". I've cried every day for over a month and anyone who knows me will tell you, I am not a crier. In fact I suck at showing emotions. Unless I'm hungry :) Having no outlet to relieve stress does a number on you mentally and I'm not going to lie, there's been some really dark moments throughout this. When I got the MRI report, I cried. Again. This time because it did give us some answers! Most importantly it validated that I am not crazy. This pain is real and needs to be dealt with.
MRI #2 provided some answers and combining that with the previous round of images has lead me down a new path of putting this puzzle together. As of today, here is what I know....
- As my doc says, "you have a spondy". Sounds cute, right? Not so much. Spondylosis which is also referred to as spinal arthritis.
- My L4-L5 has mild facet arthropathy. Again, also referred to as degenerative arthritis.
- My T-10-T11 shows disc desiccation with partial disc collapse and a minor annular bulge.
At 31 years old, hearing that your issues are in your spine is completely terrifying. However, what's done is done and now the next steps are to figure out how to fix it and/or keep the degenerative aspects from progressing. Next week I have an appointment with doctor #3 and I hope to start making progress in how to treat this.
I will run again. Not sure when at this point but I'll be back out there. My desire to walk, sit, and function as a normal human without any pain is goal #1. When I'm ready to run again, I'll have to work even harder to stay strong so I can keep these issues at bay. Challenge accepted.