The Pressure Test
For most of my life, I’ve been unable to run or do a lot of exercises comfortably. The main issues early on tended to be my knees. While in high school, I was diagnosed with chondromalacia. Now, I don’t recall if that was a diagnosis based purely on my explaining my symptoms to my doctors or if I had all of the necessary tests run that would prove this was what was causing my knees to hurt so badly. But, all of the symptoms added up and I’ve been addressing it as such since then. I’ve come to learn to live with it and have determined different things I can do to work around the pain.
Several years ago I was told – or perhaps I simply logged on to WebMD and diagnosed myself – the extreme burning sensation in my lower legs was due to shin splints. The shin splints, I was told/determined, were caused by overuse of the muscles surrounding the shin bone (tibia). It all made sense to me at the time. I discontinued whatever fantastic exercise I was attempting and told myself it just wasn’t meant to be. Between the knee pain and the shin pain, I had all but given up on exercising. And giving up was coming along quickly.
If you’ve followed this blog, you know the story already. But, [DDET click here if you’d like a recap:]
The switch finally went on in my head, enlightening me to the fact I needed to get off the couch. It didn’t really matter what I did, as long as it was off the couch and, preferably, outdoors.
I took the typical steps people in my position would normally take; joined a gym, started watching what I ate, paid attention to how much I sit/stand/walk, saw the doctor so she could confirm I wouldn’t break as I started to stretch and bend things. Just overall health awareness.
At some point, the yearning to run crept into my head and took hold. Not the unrealistic-for-now marathon run, but the simple-it-seemed 5k run, perhaps followed shortly by a 10k run. Then…who knew?
I found a Beginning Running for Women class nearby and signed up. Everything was jolly and I felt I was succeeding until about six weeks into the twelve week program. That’s when the shin splints reared their evil pain again. I’d almost forgotten about them.
After much whining, pushing, stretching, warming up, icing, ibuprofen, heating, massaging, frustration and a couple of tears, I managed to finish the course. I did have to change my pace and watch my footfalls at all times so I wouldn’t make the pain any worse than it had to be.
I always felt – based on my research and what I’d heard from others – I could push through the pain. I thought with continued workouts and continued use of the muscles, the pain would subside somewhat and I would be able to get through the worst and continue my journey on my own terms, rather than have my pain decide my fate.
I felt this wholeheartedly. That’s why I signed up for the Beginning Running for Women class again. I thought if I went back to the beginning and started over, the muscles would become less and less sore with the usage.
My beliefs were proven incorrect. The pain came right back at around six weeks into the twelve week running program. Just as we begin to step up the running times, my shins scream “Stop!”
I finally decided to see a doctor regarding my shin splints. X-rays were taken and my first stop was orthopedics. I understood quickly that orthopedics was not the place I needed to be. Their focus was more on bones and joint issues, it seemed. The x-rays showed there were no fractures – stress, hairline, or otherwise – in my lower legs, so the doctor made an appointment for me with a podiatrist.
After spending only moments with him, having explained my symptoms and after he confirmed there was no discomfort while palpating my lower legs, he suggested another explanation for the pain.
That was a really big name, I thought, and I had to have him repeat it several times so it would be engrained in my mind. My fingers could not wait to get to a place where I could utilize google to better inform myself of what comes next. He explained what it was and how it can be treated, but I wasn’t fond of what I was hearing.
Basically, he said there is really no ‘non-surgical’ cure for it and most conventional cures or aids aren’t really effective. I can confirm this, as I’ve already tried most of them while attempting to calm my shin splints.
The test to prove, without a doubt, CECS is what I’ve got is quite invasive and sounds very painful. He told me about it. About how they take measurements while you’re at rest then have you exercise to the point where the pain is at its worse. Then they take measurements again for comparison. I admit, I just about hopped off the table to have him perform tests so we could hurry up and get to the “fixing” part. Then I could get on with my exercising life.
That’s when he got to the part about the “large needle.”
He really should’ve led with that.
When I asked if he recommended I take the surgical route, he said most people who go through with the surgery do so because they want to continue doing the activity that has been causing them pain. After the procedure, many patients are able to work their way back to running, skiing, climbing, or whatever they want to do and no longer feel the burning and tightness that previously may have hindered their experience.
Since it was never my intention to become a runner as an occupation, or even a major hobby, I won’t be getting the test or the surgery at this time. I am not a huge fan of pain, as you know if you’ve been following along, and I’ve no intention of knowingly inflicting it upon myself unless there’s some huge payoff at the end. I do not feel that is the case here.
I will finish out this RFW course and I will then determine what my next steps will be.
Once again I find myself reevaluating my journey’s path. It seems right when I get some momentum going, up comes a many pronged fork in the road.
But because surgery is out of the picture for me right now, I see no prongs. It feels as if my only choices are to move forward in pain, or retreat.
Rare blogs regarding CECS:
- My Experience with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome
- Compartment Syndrome; Surgery, Recovery, and Beyond
- Recovery from Compartment Syndrome Surgery
- Legs on Fire
- Think Weird Thoughts