Thanksgiving week was my designated rest week. And by “rest” I mean no training and lots of time to sleep in, catch up on things I’ve neglected while training and, in the words of the great KP, “FUCKING EMBRACE [the laziness].” It seemed like a perfect time for prolotherapy.
I don’t expect you to know what that is—I first heard of it a couple months ago—and that’s why I’m writing this post.
“Prolotherapy is a treatment that stimulates the body to repair painful areas. Specifically it involves the injection of natural substances into painful areas to stimulate the body’s own repair mechanisms to strengthen and heal injured structures. Mostly, Prolotherapy is used to strengthen ligaments and tendons.”
-Journal of Prolotherapy
If you read my Pumpkinman race report, you know I dealt with some serious pain in my ankles and lower legs this past season. If you know me, you know that I’ve been dealing with the same (or similar) f***ing pain for years (somewhere between six and 17 years, depending on when you start counting).
I was determined not to be in pain this season. I started working with an amazing physical therapist in May. She taught me to walk properly and taught me to use my butt when I run. I made huge improvements—but the pain came back.
So my amazing physical therapist shipped me off to an osteopath where I learned just how messed up I was. Among other things, my tibia and fibula were externally rotated, my ankle ligaments were way too loose and my feet were too stiff. The osteopath, who is also amazing, did some manipulations and gave me homework. Some things improved (my feet got more flexible), but the pain persisted and my ankles stayed floppy.
This is where prolotherapy comes in. My doctor would inject sarapin (pitcher plant extract) into the injured areas to promote inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s way of repairing itself. For some reason—perhaps it was my diligent use of ice and anti-inflamms or maybe just my body’s ineptitude—my body wasn’t healing.
And so, on the first day of my rest week, I got 15 or so injections in each leg/ankle. Needles touched my bone. [I’m sorry. Did you come here to read about food?] It hurt, but frankly I was braced for a lot more pain. I spent the rest of the week embracing the pain of inflammation while I lazed around (as much as one can laze while hosting Thanksgiving). The following week, I started running no more than three miles at a time. And after three weeks (when my body was nearing the end of the healing cycle), I went back to the doctor for another round.
What happened? Good things. And pain, but the good things totally outweigh the pain. I still feel pain in my legs when I run, but at a tolerable level. My ankles feel stiff (in a good way) and I can actually push off my big toe when I run (something I’ve been trying to do since May). My doctor thinks that my ankles are about 40% stronger than they were before prolotherapy.* In other words, so far, so good.
I started round 2 this week. I’ll keep you posted…
*For the record, I was doing a whole lotta ankle strengthening before the first round of prolotherapy. I got better at the exercises, but my foot continued to flop around as though it was disconnected from my leg. In other words, prolotherapy alone may not have been the cause of my increased ankle strength.