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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Phantom Pain

I started having some phantom leg pain on February 28, when I did an 8 mile long run in Columbia with friends.  When it first happened, I assumed it was from pushing myself pretty hard that day, and I figured it would go away, and didn't think much of it.  The pain was in my left quad, but it was a vague pain and I had trouble figuring out exactly where it was hurting.  It also felt like it was in my hip flexor.  So, the pain was really in my upper quad, and was rather dull.

After that initial run, the pain was gone and I forgot about it.  I ran 2 weekday runs during the week on the treadmill, at a fast pace, but not killing myself pace.  No pain.  I also started STS that week after the first pain, so it's clear that STS isn't a reason for the pain occurring the first time.  My log run the next Saturday was 7 miles in Manchester and about 2 miles in, I felt the pain again.  Same place.  It wasn't horrible, just a dull pain that didn't affect my form or speed or make me stop running.

I started feeling the pain occasionally on weekday runs, and it started to be par for the course that I would get the pain in the same place, in the same way, during my weekend runs.  Never was it serious enough for me to worry about, and never did I feel it for more than an hour or so after a run.  Sometimes I was feeling it on a weekday run, sometimes not.

I started feeling more concerned about it during the Frederick Half Marathon.  I was feeling like the pain was getting worse, but I had started to also blame my old running shoes for the problem, and I had switched out my shoes for newer ones just before the half marathon.  Plus, I was coming up on a week of rest, so I figured that I would heal.  Clearly, I wasn't worried about it enough to mention it on my blog, twitter or even in my running log (which makes it harder to track down exactly when it was hurting and when it wasn't).

It didn't heal, though, it's gotten worse.  In the last 5 days or so I've gone from being mildly concerned about it to being very worried.  I ran the Frederick half on May 3, took May 4 and 5 off, and then did 30-60 minutes of step aerobics on May 6, 7 and 8.  I ran again on May 9 - only 3.8 miles on a course that is hilly but familiar, and I did so at a comfortable pace.  I haven't run or done any lower body exercises since.  I didn't have pain during the step aerobics, and if I had pain during Saturday's run, I didn't dwell on it too much in my head, since I've gotten used to it.

So, why am I so worried?  Saturday afternoon is when it REALLY started to hurt, and not just in my left leg, but in my right leg as well.  Since then, it has continued to hurt and feel like a dull pain in both quads.  My hamstrings have felt super-tight.  I mean, they're always tight, but they feel REALLY tight now.  My calves feel tired and somewhat sore.  Even my glutes are sore.  Basically, despite having only run 3.8 miles over 8 days, my legs feel as though I've run a race.  I cannot figure this out -- it is perhaps the weirdest injury I've ever had.

I've got some theories, though:
  1. I did 3 straight days of step aerobics, after not having touched a step aerobics video since February.  What I'm feeling might be DOMS from the step aerobics, and I'm just not recognizing it as such.  Perhaps the fact that I've had the dull (and mild) quad pain since the end of February only compounded my worry and is actually coincidence.  The pain might just go away this week as I return to my regular workout schedule of STS and running.  While I saw the step as "easy," maybe my legs don't agree.  In fact, my worst day of pain was Saturday, which was 2 days after the hardest of the videos that I did (IMAX2) and the same day of my first day back to running.  Perfect timing for DOMS.

  2. Tight hamstrings?   I've always had really tight hamstrings, and maybe it's just catching up with me.  I've thought about getting back into doing some yoga / extended sports stretches, but I also don't want to be a jackass and injure myself.  I have one more sports massage to use, so I might go and get one of those.

  3. Sleeping.  I sleep on my side, and usually on my left side.  I've noticed that I feel some hip pain while sleeping and sometimes put a pillow between my legs.  It's really bad when I keep my legs stacked one above the other with no pillow between my legs - I sometimes wake up with horrible hip pain when that happens.  I'm wondering if I'm actually getting hip pain from sleeping and I'm just only noticing it when I run.  Yes, it started hurting on the right recently, but Todd was out of town and I definitely started sleeping on my right side almost exclusively while he was gone.  Now that he's home again, I'm back to sleeping on my left, so I'm curious to see if the right side pain goes away.  In the meantime, I've ordered one of those leg spacer pillows to put between my knees when I sleep.  I've wanted one for a while anyway.  We also have been having a bad habit of falling asleep on the sofa together at night while watching television.  I wake up with hip pain about 95% of the time when we do that, so maybe the runs where I have had the pain have actually followed a night on the sofa and I just didn't recognize the pattern.

  4. Veins.  I haven't talked about it a whole lot here, but I've been seeing a doctor since early 2008 for a varicose vein in my left leg.  It's bad enough that when I sleep, I sometimes have horrible aching pain in my calves from blood pooling in my leg.  I had considered surgery and ended up declining it for 2009, but I will probably go ahead and have the surgery in 2010.  I wear compression stockings in the meantime, but over the past couple of weeks it has gotten warmer out and I haven't worn them as much.  Actually, ever since I got home from Bonaire I haven't worn them as much.  I'm wondering if I'm just having the heavy legs/ tired / painful feelings that come with the stupid varicose vein.

Of course, it could be a combination of all of these, too.  I started using The Stick each evening on Saturday and it sure does feel good.  I've been trying to be good about wearing my stockings (although I'm not wearing them today...), and I'm investigating wearing compression socks during running (although they're super expensive and very dorky).  I'm going to try and do some more stretching and see if it helps.  I also even took Sunday off from working out and only did upper body yesterday, so there have been 2 more days of rest for my legs.  If this isn't resolved or at least back to the way it was within two weeks (or if it gets a lot worse), I'll go ahead and go to the orthopedist.


Lyss said...

Have you considered having a massage? I know it's expensive, but sometimes they know what's going on. Just a thought... Hope you can figure it out.

Kim said...

Yeah, I have a sports massage left from when I bought a 3-pack a while ago. The lovely people at Ojas have been harassing me to use it.

V- said...

Keep working with the Stick and see how your legs do with that, a deep tissue massage and compression socks. Try each possible remedy so that you can narrow down the possible causes. Are you icing? V-

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