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How my Running Goals Were Saved by Myofascial Release, Chiropractic and Pilates

196463_10150200668451944_6555553_n“If the injections don’t work, you’ll need surgery,” the doctor said. Right; I’m not gonna do that, I thought.

My tendency is to attack any ailment with as natural a remedy as possible. So, know that I didn’t come to the doctor because I wanted injections in my back to treat bulging discs at L4 and L5, but I also didn’t want to be curled up in pain for another minute of my life.

Let’s take a look back at how I got to be laid out, flat on my screaming back, in a doctor’s office. . . .

I’ve wanted to be a runner for a long time—at least since the age of 14 or 15. Specifically, I remember having my mom drive me up to the “blacktop”—the name we gave the newly paved asphalt road that intersected with our gravel road up the hill from our homestead—so that I could run on a level, debris-free surface. I was a bit of a prissy runner from the get-go.

Struggling with some weight at the time, I thought running was my key to being skinny. After all, how many overweight runners do you know? Don’t fault me for thinking that; I was young and naïve. Now that I am a legit runner, I actually know runners of all shapes and sizes. Still, I thought I’d be lithe and dynamic. I also recognized that I wanted to accomplish something, to make my body and mind achieve something. And by doing so, I hoped to gain confidence and bragging rights.

Neither confidence nor bragging rights happened. At least not at 15. That one attempt at an 8 a.m. summer run on the blacktop was all I could muster. In fact, I barely ran. I walked mostly.

So, I shelved running but still kept the dream alive in the back of my mind.

Fast-forward several years. I shattered my ankle—a story I will tell at another time. During rehab in a swimming pool with other patients, the therapist asked us what goals or plans we had when rehab completed. I don’t remember what others said, but out from my subconscious, down through my brain stem, along my spinal nerves, and over through my neck, mouth and tongue muscles, I moved air over my vocal chords and formed the words: “I want to be a runner, maybe even run a marathon.”

Huh? The voice I heard seemed detached from my body and my psyche. But everyone was looking at me, so I had to believe I actually said those words. Before being blindsided by this long-forgotten interest, budding on desire, I hadn’t thought about running in years.

Then, my therapist said something I wanted to punch her for: “You’ll never be a runner. You’re just like me; we don’t have the body nor the mechanics for it.” I refuted her, but in a deflated way, and finished up my therapy for the day.

Fast -forward to March 2010, the Atlanta Publix Half Marathon. After suffering pulled quad muscles in fall 2009, and not properly cross-training during my half marathon training plan, my body mechanics and core muscles were a tightened, tangled mess on race day. Still, I was determined to complete the race.

At the end, I felt very accomplished that I ran 11 out of those 13.1 miles, and came within a minute or so of my goal time. Yay, me—mentally. Not “yay, me” physically.

Within two days, I was unable to walk upright. Excruciating pain shot across my low back, centralized around my piriformis, ran down my legs, and numbed my toes. I was in bad shape. An MRI revealed bulging discs, two of them—as if misery loved company.

Though I wanted relief to be found without traditional medical intervention, chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage therapy weren’t working fast enough on the pain.

At my wit’s end—and at the end of many nerve fibers—I sought cortisone shots. As the doctor moved my legs around and observed my limited mobility in bending (no bend-n-snap here, for real), he advised future surgery, as the cortisone shots would likely not last very long. I succumbed to the pain and received the injections. A month later, still debilitated and getting worse because of some of the physical therapy, I had a second round of cortisone shots.

The pain became bearable and I was able to function somewhat normally. With the mental stress of pain management out of the way, I was able to research the heck out of alternative methods. Because I know enough about body mechanics to get myself in trouble, I had a pretty good idea of what I needed.

Thus, I embarked on a chiropractic and myofascial release treatment onslaught against my body—twice a week to the chiropractor, three times a week to the MFR therapist. In three weeks, I was a new woman, and I solidly began building core strength through Pilates twice a week. (The stronger the core, the better the back.) I added in yoga shortly after to gain flexibility. In six weeks, I was walking the Peachtree Road Race (6.2 miles), and in a year, I was running 5Ks again.

Though I believe chiropractic benefited me, I found myofascial release therapy to provide more help and healing than any of the other methods I tried, particularly in releasing my hip flexors, IT band, and sacrum.

The trick for me to remain among the functional and upright walking public, however, is the continued practice of Pilates and yoga, with regularly scheduled chiropractic and MFR therapy appointments.

Do you suffer from a back injury or pain? How are you treating it? Like my physical therapist, have you ever had someone tell you that you couldn’t do something that you later went on and did—successfully? If you’re a runner, what’s your first memory of wanting to run?

©2013 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.