On Friday I went into hospital to have the pressure tested in my legs to see if I have chronic exertional compartment syndrome. It has been a year and a half, almost to the date, since the onset of this leg pain. I have had so many tests that it's starting to get quite ridiculous now. The symptoms I'm suffering with pretty much match up exactly to compartment syndrome.
The test involves having long needles pushed into each of the four compartments in each leg to test the pressure inside. You then head off to do some exercise, when you return the tests are done again to see if there is an increase in pressure.
The test if often done by itself and then you would be referred for surgery at a later date. As my consultant was doing the tests in theatre in the hospital, he booked out the surgery in case the results were high.
I had read so many horror stories about how painful the pressure test is that I was terrified. My heart rate and blood pressure were seriously high even though I was laying down.
The first set of test were done and I had completely overestimated the pain. It was absolutely fine. I experienced basically no pain at all. All the acupuncture I've had has been way more intense. The results of the first test were all very low. In fact, one of the compartments that I've been having a lot of trouble with was extremely low.
I went off for a run and then came back to the hospital to wait to be called back to theatre. As I waited I continued to jog on the spot. As I was exercising, the burning and aching that I feel was there but any time I stopped the pain disappeared instantly. I knew that my legs weren't responding as they have in the past when I've been training hard. I was advised to stop running back in June so it's been a long time since my training has been at the normal level for me.
Back in theatre I lay down and waited for the needles to be inserted deep into my legs again. The first reading that came back was lower than the original test. One by one each of the compartments had its pressure read. They were all pretty much the same and only one had increased a tiny amount.
So surgery didn't go ahead which felt like a relief for about half an hour until I broke down.
What on earth is wrong with me?
I've had so many tests done and nothing has been found. I've had so much physio treatment and nothing has worked. I've stopped training and every time I return to running the pain comes back. I've had my biomechanics looked at and made adjustments which has definitely improved my running but the pain is still there even with standing exercises.
Maybe it's all just in my head.
This isn't the first time I've thought this. I completely understand that the mind is a very powerful thing. That's how I've managed to battle through previous challenges. I am completely happy to accept that it's in my head if it is. I just want to get the problem fixed.
I feel like I'm starting to go mad.
My consultant is going to send me for some nerve testing but if that comes back with nothing then he really doesn't know what it could be.
I just feel so lost and like I have no control over any of this. Over the past year I have done all of the exercises and adaptations that professionals have advised me to do. I've worked so hard and done everything in my power to try and sort this out but it's not worked. I feel so helpless and it's not something that I'm used to. I've always worked hard to achieve anything I set my mind to and this is something I can do very little about.
I feel so fed up and I just want it to all be over.
My mind keeps flipping between just accepting that I can't do much exercising and accepting a more sedentary life or continue to keep fighting, staying as strong as I can and searching for an answer. This whole experience has been such a roller coaster of emotion that it is really wearing me out.
For the moment I am going to throw myself into my art work as it's something that I have control over. As hard as it is I'm going to try and take my mind off of my leg (this really is impossible but I'll try). I really want to be back in New Zealand but that isn't a possibility for now. I'm beginning a CBT course this week to help me deal with everything and hopefully make me feel better.
Fingers crossed something is found soon. :)
I feel like I've been waiting forever for the results to come through from my latest MRI and bone scans. The wait is over and I have finally seen my consultant. I knew the results would be negative and I wasn't wrong. I've known all along that I don't have a bone problem. I think, as an athlete, you know your body enough to know the difference between feelings of soft tissue or bone.
My whole life has been built around being outdoors and being physically active. Over the past year and a half, the pain in my lower legs has slowly increased and the level of activity I can complete pain free has drastically reduced. I have become a shadow of the person I used to be. I used to jump around and be full of life. I used to smile all the time. I didn’t realise how much I relied on exercise and adventure for my mental health. Now I spend a large portion of my time crying and I take antidepressants to get me through each day.
The last time I wrote a blog was three months ago. I haven’t written since then as I haven’t been coping very well and sharing my life with anyone other than my very closest friends and family hasn’t been a priority. I’ve probably had the worst six months of my life so far.
After having two months off running when diagnosed with a stress reaction, my leg still hurt to walk but I began the back to running program as I was told I’d probably left it too long.
This was back in May when I also returned to the UK. Two weeks into the back to running program and the pain was getting worse. I persisted thinking it may be due to my legs doing no exercise for so long. Over the next month it got to the point where I was in excruciating pain within two minutes of running. I went to the doctors but was back to square one even after having seven months of treatment in New Zealand.
I'm 34 years old. I've been running for 22 years. In that time, there's been two occasions where I've had bone problems. During both of those times I've been taking a progestin only contraceptive.
I want to share this with you not to spread fear but just to make you aware and prevent you from being in the same situation as me.
As someone that trains hard to maintain or improve their fitness and performance, injury is pretty much my worst nightmare. Nobody trains hard to have it all thrown away.
Receiving the news that you must stop training for whatever sport you love is heartbreaking. If you are anything like me you probably won't hear much else from the doctor giving you that news as the emotion takes over your concentration.
You too are probably hooked to the endorphins released from pushing yourself in sport but don't worry, you can get through this. Here are my top tips for maintaining sanity whilst recovering from injury...
It’s been a month since my last blog and boy, has my life been different!!
I got the results of my MRI scan through. I didn’t thoroughly understand what the outcome was but I did understand what I was told to do. NO RUNNING!! (and giving up on this years goal)
You can imagine how my heart sank when I heard this. I was then presented with a bundle of paperwork describing in detail what I COULD do. It went like this:
For the next month focus on aqua-jogging! No running or walking for exercise. Let pain be your guide. If you do anything that hurts, don't do it!
Not even two months ago I announced that I'll be attempting to run the length of the UK. This wasn't a spontaneous desire or some drunken New Years resolution. This had already been in planning for a year and half but I wanted the ElliptigOz adventure to be complete before sharing.
If you follow me on any of my social media channels you'll have seen that I'm struggling with an injury of some sort. This may sound vague but I still don't know what's going on in my calf. I've been seeing physiotherapists for four months now, also a podiatrist and now a sports physician. I've had massages, suction therapy, acupuncture and all manner of treatments. I've been for an x-ray and an ultrasound scan, and nothing has come from these but I've been informed something isn't right.
The last time I went to a vineyard I ended up texting the person stood next to me telling them I was in a vineyard. You can imagine how sober I was!
This time was slightly different.
January is basically over and life has been so hectic, it's taken me until now to get back to blogging. 2017 was an incredible year but at the same time incredibly busy. I feel like I haven't stopped for five minutes since returning from riding the Elliptigo across Australia.
Reflection is really important to me. Looking back over things that went well and things that could have gone better helps to move forward. Thinking about what makes you feel satisfied and what gives you a sense of purpose is a great indicator of what direction your life should go in. The easy option is not alway the one you should go with!
Having more than a handful of adventures under my belt now this is becoming an all too familiar occurrence. I have this vision well in advance of an upcoming challenge. I envision being super fit. Super ready. Super organised. Sponsors bursting out of my ears etc etc.