Returning to Low Impact Activity

Parts 2 and 3 of Throwing a Baby Shower are coming – I promise. But in the meantime, here’s what’s going on with yours truly.

20180721_081605It’s been almost a month since my last injury update on here, which was also the last time I saw my doctor. I still have another 2.5 weeks until I see her again, but I’ve made some major progress lately.

First of all, the last two weeks of July were completely unproductive in terms of my recovery and fitness. I was so busy the week leading up to my best friend’s baby shower that I got in a pool running workout on Monday but I spent Tuesday-Friday doing last-minute crafts and prep for the shower. Then after the shower (SPOILER ALERT: it went perfectly!), I felt like I needed a few days to decompress and cuddle with my dog after work instead of shooing him away from me & my hot glue gun. And then it was just SO. DAMN. HOT. I couldn’t even take him for a 5-minute walk without sweating through my clothes, so the thought of getting in my car and driving to what I knew would be a jam-packed public pool was just not appealing to me.

I did, however, get serious about clean eating again. Pre-shower, I made turkey tacos for my work lunches with only a small amount of meat and a crapload of veggies in each one. The following week (last week), I made these Cold Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken. Then this week, I’ve been having Greek Chicken Bowls – my favorite by far. Not the lowest calorie because of all the yogurt, but I’ve been trying to slowly reintroduce dairy back into my life in small quantities so as not to upset my stomach. While I no longer crave ice cold cow’s milk and think almond milk is here to stay, there are a lot of healthy recipes that incorporate Greek yogurt, which is also a healthy swap for sour cream in recipes. And it’s a source of healthy fats – which I know I struggle to get enough of

Shortly after waking up, I make a smoothie of protein powder, chia seeds, almond butter, almond milk, and lots of ice. My second breakfasts are consistently avocado & hardboiled eggs or avocado toast on Ezekiel whole grain sprouted (and flour-free) bread and a cup of coffee with almond milk. I am down to one cup a day now, with the exception of the days I work from home when I tend to feel more sluggish in the morning due to still being in my pjs. For dinner, I usually have fish or another protein with lots of grilled veggies over riced cauliflower. Some days I’m too hot or tired to cook dinner, so I settled for raw veggies dipped in ranch or a basic spinach and watermelon “salad” sprinkled with some feta.

IMG_20180801_174655_01When I woke up on Wednesday, August 1, I was raring to go. This was the day my doctor said I could – as long as there was no tenderness when pressing on the bone – starting riding the recumbent bike with no resistance and taking short walks without the boot. I had hoped to go to the gym before work but was wired the night before for some reason, so I barely woke up in time for work. Instead, I went to the gym after work and happily handed over my $70 membership fee for the first time in 2 months (they had allowed me to “freeze” my membership with a doctor’s note for June and July). I should back up and say that I walked the 527 feet (yes, I measured the distance on Google Maps) to the gym WITHOUT THE BOOT. I also walked home without the boot.

I sat down on the recumbent bike and fiddled with the seat for a bit. My gut has grown exponentially since this forced rest period began, and the angle of the recumbent bike was honestly so uncomfortable with my big belly in the way. I also didn’t know how close I should sit or what angle my knees should be at, so I found a happy medium that wasn’t so close that I was pushing with a lot of weight in the pedals and wasn’t so far that I was having to point my toes to reach. It felt easy and pain-free, and I was just so glad to be moving my leg outside of the pool. I did 30 minutes, then went and did a bit of upper body free weights. I did these standing, which in retrospect was probably a bit much for my tibia, but I felt fine.

When I got home, I could swear there was pain. Instead, I spent HOURS googling “stress fracture phantom pains” and found so much information that validated what I was feeling while confirming that I had not re-injured myself. A bunch of blogs quoted this one:

Depending on where your stress fracture is located, there is a good chance you can feel your fractured bone with every step.

This makes us very sensitive and aware of any pains that we experience, and two of the lesser known symptoms of a stress fracture from running are calcium deposits and phantom pains in the bone.

Calcium deposits

Often, as a stress fracture heals, a calcium deposit develops at the point of the fracture for protection of the bone.

When this calcium deposit presses outward on other tissue, including nerve tissue, one can feel different sensations including numbness or tingling while running for several months afterwards.

This sensation does not mean that you should stop running, but if you are experiencing consistent pain throughout the run at the point of the fracture, check with your doctor to make sure that the fracture has fully healed.

In addition to time, one way to help relieve the symptoms of calcium build-up is to have a Physical Therapist perform the Graston Technique to break up scar tissue around the site of the fracture and allow more oxygen-rich blood to flow freely through the area.

General sports massage can also help with the issue.

Phantom pains

Sometimes, as a runner returns to the sport after taking time off from a stress fracture, phantom pains in the area of the fracture are felt.

Phantom pains, often similar to the pains that a runner first experiences when a stress fracture develops, can lead a runner to believe that the stress fracture has not fully healed or that another has developed in exactly the same place.

There are a few ways to tell if the twinges of pain you are experiencing are the real thing or not:

Does the pain remain steady or progressively get worse throughout the run?

If so, check with your doctor; if not, and the pains are sporadic and vary in intensity and location, chances are that the pains are “phantom pains” and are not a cause for worry.

Here’s the deal:

Phantom pains can be caused by aforementioned calcium build up but can also be mentally induced by fear of re-injury.

Think of it as post-traumatic stress fracture disorder where instead of mental flashbacks to the time of trauma, there are phantom pains.

20180803_075847I felt this again on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, I did a 30-minute pool running workout (was planning on 45, but the lifeguards had everyone get out of the pool just as I was arriving and made us wait 15 minutes for them to do some “pool check”) and on Friday, I went to PT early and rode the bike for 35 minutes, again at zero resistance. Then I had some Graston and dry needling done on my soleus muscle, which was very likely involved in my tibia’s demise.

As I’m writing this blog post on Friday, I’m feeling a decent amount of “pain” in my shin. Does it hurt when I press on the bone? No. So I believe this pain is part-muscular (muscles around my tibia are sore from being worked 2 times in 3 days, after spending 8 weeks dormant), part-calcium buildup, part-mental. It’s highly unlikely that these short walks without the boot and barely pushing against a bike pedal would cause pain anyway. As my doctor reminded me at my appointment in July, the boot wasn’t really doing anything anymore – the X-ray confirmed the bone was healing and technically I could have thrown the boot in the trash. But it was functioning as a reminder to continue favoring my left leg, take it easy, and avoid any impact other than walking. So maybe it’s 75% mental and 25% muscle soreness/calcium buildup.

Either way, I decided to email my doctor and she got back to me right away.

I think it is reasonable to start the bike at low resistance. Just keep tabs on how you feel the next day. The is a lot of musculature in that area so it can feel strange to get moving again. As long as there is no pain to touch or to bear weight you are still on the right track!

Great! She also placed a lab order for me to get my calcium and vitamin D levels checked. I’ve been taking supplements and also drinking a boatload of almond milk, which has 50% more calcium than dairy milk.

I’m heading to my dad’s tonight and then to my mom’s for the rest of the weekend, so I don’t think I’ll be getting in any workouts until Sunday evening at the earliest. I was hoping to use my cousin’s pool tomorrow for a pool running workout but the forecast is calling for storms on and off all day, so we may be forced to sit inside the AC and relax. OK with me!

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