Photo Credits: Above - Zen 2.0 by Flickr user Pittaya Sroilong, used under a used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. Below – Batman by Flickr user edenpictures, used under a used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.
When we last checked in on our hero, he was continuing to struggle with the effects of a strained hamstring, and his work with a physical therapist on both recovery approaches and new strengthening and flexibility exercises was delivering mixed short-term results. Well, as heroes who have been stripped of their powers are wont to do, this one grew impatient with the slow progress and sought the sage consultation of another expert, this time in the form of the illustrious (and local) sports chiropractor, Dr. Tim Keyes.
Now, why a chiropractor, you might ask? I asked the same question when my wife suggested it. And therein lies the answer – my wife suggested it. She was repeating the observation that the physical therapy assistant had made, which, in layman’s terms, basically boils down to “your hips are crooked.” For her, in her general skepticism of all medical practices that are not traditional physician-based (which I share), to suggest such an idea was impressive in and of itself. She had a colleague at work who’s significant other is a cyclist, and he in turn recommended Dr. Keyes based on the significant improvements he was able to make in treating problems in his knee (again, you may ask – why a back-cracker for knee issues?).
It turns out that Dr. Keyes is a practitioner of Active Release Techniques, or ART. If you aren’t familiar with the basics, this is a patented approach that combines examination, motion, and massage using several of over 500 moves, to break down the scar tissue in your affected muscles, ligaments, or tendons and thus allow for faster healing through improved range of motion and the like. All of which leads to the obvious question – how does one enforce a patent on massage techniques?
Or, I guess another question you might have is – how does it work? Well, we got pretty much right into the meat of the issues right away, as there was very little in the way of discussion other than, basically, “where does it hurt?” I did discuss the inputs from the physical therapist, and Dr. Keyes questioned the belief that road camber (or cant) had much to do with the issue, instead preferring the “it’s just one of those things” explanation. Perhaps, in his view, the convergence of poor strengthening/flexibility practices, a lot of miles (not overtraining though, by his definition), and the lengthy flights to Portland and back combined to convert what was originally just a lot of scar tissue build-up into a full out muscle strain. We didn’t get into, or even examine, whether one leg was longer than the other, or anything of that sort. He just dove in and began treatment.
Now, one thing I should point out about Dr. Keyes is that he is a triathlete, having completed an Ironman per year the past 4 years. His entire office competed in either the Akron Marathon full- or half-marathon event last year as they were sponsors, and his marathon PR sounds to be close to my own. Thus, his definition of “over-training” may be a bit, well, liberal – but it suits me just fine.
I digress, back to the ART process, which largely consisted of a half-hour of focused massage on all portions of the left hamstring while either stretching or contracting it and commenting on observations. He reported finding a vein of scar tissue down the length of the hamstring which he believed to be the source of the issue. The massage itself wasn’t nearly as painful as the Graston technique work performed by the physical therapist, and left no lingering bruises. His parting instructions on that first day were to get running, as that was the only way to measure progress and surface any issues that may come up while compensating for the hamstring problems, and to come back in less than 7 days before the scar tissue had a chance to close ranks and re-form.
This was a bit of a mind shift as I’d sold myself on taking two weeks of rest to help the hamstring heal, but I could understand (or maybe wanted to understand) his rationale. So I proceeded cautiously over the course of the following weekend, starting that very night, to put in a couple of short runs, and the results were eons better than previous trial runs had been, with barely even a niggle in the hamstring during or after the run. It hurt more to sit than to run from that point on, and even sitting became less painful after the first follow-up appointment 4 days later.
So, on the other obvious question of “does it work?”, the answer, with one or two treatments and some very minor sensation still left, is a qualified (but only lightly so) “yes!” I never would have expected this type of progress so quickly, given the slow progress over the 8 weeks ahead of this appointment. As opposed to having a chiropractor be the last place I turn for future issues, Dr. Keyes may well be the first stop. In fact, he may be one of my favorite people.
As Winston Churchill might have said if he ever encountered hamstring issues which required him to modify his overall perspectives in regards to marathon training:
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.“
While the ART appears to have been the magic bullet for overcoming this hamstring issue, I don’t regret at all the path taken ahead of this, as the physical therapy and downtime provided for the means and opportunity to expand the repertoire of overall exercises used to help support my running pursuits. In addition, the discipline I developed over my diet during this down time (resulting in a weight loss of close to five pounds, even with the holiday and vacation effects included) will serve me well for future such situations, and I’ll detail such lessons in a future blog post. But, most importantly, we are near the point at which we can declare it is time to move ahead, and begin rebuilding the Predawn Runner.