As some of you may remember from earlier posts I have on and off pain in my left cheek whenever I add speed or mileage too quickly. I've been having problems with this for 8 or more years and think I originally hurt it during a defensive sprint in an ultimate frisbee game (in my fading memory I like to think I made a huge, game-winning play on that D). This pain is nowhere near a 10 on the pain chart. It's an achy pain that sneaks up on me. It starts in my rear and then likes to migrate down my leg and settle behind my knee and also likes to wrap around to my groin. It definitely changes my gait and sucks away my desire to run. I have felt for some time that it is hindering my performance and it's just plain annoying.
I've avoided going to the base doctors because I was afraid they would simply tell me, "you need to stop running, blah, blah, blah." However, recently a friend from WOOT (Women on Okinawa Trails), Kathleen, told me about a doc over at the SMART (Sports Medicine something something something) clinic on the marine bases here on Okinawa. She said he's also an athlete and would give advice that I could live with. The best part is that with Kathleen's help I got into this high demand clinic in about 2 days time.
Well, I finally went to the doctor and the pain that I've been having in my hamstring/gluteus area isn't really due to my glam, but my sacrum. I don't think I've actually heard of the sacrum before my visit, but apparently it's pretty critical.
It's the triangular bone located at the end of your vertebrae before your coccyx (I've been waiting for years to put coccyx in a post!). It sits between your pelvic bones and apparently everything is connected to it (admit it, you're now singing "your sacrum bone's connected to your coccyx bone, your coccyx bone's connected to ...). Not only is it connected to your vertebra, coccyx, and pelvic bones, but to tons of muscles, ligaments, and tendons too! All of your glutes as well as your hip flexors (another area that gives me trouble when I up the mileage) are connected to your sacrum.
Well, that's all well and good unless you're like me and your sacrum is out of whack. I kind of always thought that as a runner I would naturally have strong legs, but while running has given me powerful quads, my hamstrings and glutes have been feeling neglected. These weak glutes (my left is weaker than my right) have caused an imbalance in my sacrum.
So, what's a girl with an unbalanced sacrum to do? Good question and the first part of my healing process was to get manipulated!
Not only is Dr. Biery a medical doctor, but he's also a chiropractor. I've got to say being manipulated isn't really comfortable. I laid on my side on a table and then he kind of bear hugged me on the top, middle, and bottom of my spine. Then I rolled over and he did the other side. I know that's not a great description, but it's all I got. It's a little strange being bear hugged by a stranger in an open room full of more strangers so I giggled nervously with every pop and crack (trust me there was lots of popping and cracking).
I'll be going back next week for another manipulation. Along with the manipulations, Dr. Biery gave me strength exercises to do. They include squats (in a few weeks I'll move to one-legged squats):
I really need to improve my core strength so I can stay injury free.
He also mentioned that I should warm up for 5-10 minutes before running. This can include lunges, squats, high knees, and side step. I basically need to let my sacrum know that exercise is about to commence.
Lastly, he recommended that for now I use the Galloway Method. This is a method where you run for a set time (say 5 minutes) and then you walk for a set time (maybe 1 minute). I haven't used it before because it seems counter intuitive, but from what I've read some people actually improve their times because they are able to run faster during the run periods. It sounds good for now, but I hope to graduate back to constant running. I think the Galloway Method might be perfect for Mongolia because of the hills. Plus, since I'm pretty sure this could be my only marathon in Mongolia I want to take my time and let the memories seep in.
I am very excite to finally have a plan to get this injury under control. The doc also mentioned that if this doesn't give me the results we're looking for he'll try a little acupuncture on me. Woohoo! Pain-free running here I come!