Thursday, April 14, 2011

Do It Yourself Doctor Needing Directions

It must be one of those guy things like not asking for directions. Every so often, some part of my body breaks down from running and rather than seeking professional help, I attempt to self-diagnose the problem.

It's inevitable really. If you're trying to push limits, you're going to hit a few breaking points. When that happens, you need to back off and figure out what the problem is so you can fix it. After years of reading books, talking to other runners, and stealing advice from physical therapists whenever possible, analyzing my own personal pains and injuries has become second nature.

For example, I can tell if that pain in my left knee is my reoccurring tendinitis just by the way it feels, which I can take care of with some ice, or if the pain something else that might be more serious and difficult to deal with. I'm often poking around my hamstrings and calves, looking for tight or sore points to massage or stretch out. And there's this irritation in my index toe knuckle that ofter flares up at the end of most long runs. This happens a lot, and if I just give the toe a gentle twist, the joint will emit a soft "pop" and things feel a whole lot better.

Of course, to really figure out what is wrong, you really need to see a professional. But of course, I really do not have the money or time to see one pretty much every week or so as do most people. So lots of runners simply resort to being their own amateur doctor out of necessity, figuring out what the small pains are and working to keep them under control. So when someone asks "Don't you think you should see someone about that?" as they watch me limp around, my stubborn response is "Nope, I'll be fine. This is just part of running." I usually don't need directions, even when I am a little lost about what's going on with my body.

But a couple weeks ago, from both misdiagnoses and overzealous training, I screwed up my right hip real good. Of course, at first I figured the initial soreness was a little strain which I could work out with some stretching. But that really didn't help much. But figuring if I was careful, I could do a couple hard runs before the Santa Cruz Half-Marathon, and then back off, the soreness in the hip would recover in time for the race and everything would be fine.

I don't need to tell you what happened. My right hip got real bad, too bad to run without badly limping around, and my reward for all that stubborn hard work was standing around watching half-marathon I should've been running in. Checking a running book chapter on injuries, my new self-diagnoses on my hip was a stress fracture, which requires about two months of rest, no running to heal. Crap.

So even I finally gave in and had someone look at this who actually knows what he's doing. A genuine doctor. One who knows that the hip is a very strong bone and that stress fractures in it are very rare. Of course, my wife who works in a hospital told me the very same thing a few days earlier, but do you really think I'd pay attention to her on this? The doctor also noticed the two general areas I pointed to where the pain was the worst happened to be the very spots where bursa sacs are located in the hip, which pretty much sealed the deal on it being bursitis. They took hip x-rays anyway, but didn't find anything. Sort like when they x-ray my head.

And one of the few times in my life, I'm glad to be wrong. And since bursitis takes maybe a couple weeks to heal, I'm thrilled to say my problem is bursitis. Sometimes, when all is lost, you finally give in to reason over pride, and pull out a map, sometimes you'll find a great shortcut.


  1. I do that too - allow a little injury to sit without wanting to rush off to the doc, mainly due to the expense, I don't have the time, plus my own pride. Luckily I haven't had any serious issues!

  2. That is a hell of a lot better diagnosis than hip stress fracture, but any injury is frustrating. Hope you feel better soon, Derrick.

  3. wow, great to have avoided the stress fracture in the hip! yes, everyone once in a while, we need a good smack up side the head — and listening to wife wouldn't be such a bad thing now and again :)