Sarah recovery

I’d never been sidelined from running for so long: eight months and counting. This bulging disks thing was crushing my running buzz like nothing—a twin pregnancy, multiple ankle fractures, plantar fasciitis x 2—ever had. 

Two cortisone injections in my back four months after the injury’s onset allowed me to walk somewhat normally, and I found heaps of joy on the pickleball court last summer and early fall. Yet running alluded me: Whenever I even tried to just hustle across a crosswalk, my hip carriage and upper-thigh region staged a revolt. 

The weird thing about the bulging disks:  Yes, they were located in my back (L3 + L4 for folks who know the spinal cord), but my back was mostly pain free. Instead, pinched nerves made pain radiate suddenly to my groin, like lightning bolts down my inner thighs, and my hips felt sore and hinky. 

Regardless, in September, to prep for leading running workshops at our annual Rancho La Puerta retreat, I headed to the track. “Slow and steady” was my mantra, as I mixed jogging into walks. Eventually I built up to a half-mile of continuous running, but it came with a price: It left my walking gait hobbled for hours, especially if I sat for too long at my desk following a track session. At the Ranch, my left glutes seized, slowing me to a walk in our final session and unable to play pickleball for very long. Swimming was my refuge, as it had been since my bulging disks presented themselves in mid-February. 

Sarah’s constant refuge: open water swimming.

I diligently did physical therapy exercises: a daily half-hour of back arches and strengthening moves. Yet when I closed my eyes, quieted my mind, and tried to listen to what my body was telling me, all I heard was, “not yet.” This message was amplified by my left knee, which had started talking to me in late summer with occasional pain and slight, constant swelling. Add in a few more PT exercises—I mean, what’s the difference between 30 and 40 minutes when you’re in a small, carpeted room in your PJs?! 

The glamorous room where Sarah does her PT. Who says exercise isn’t sexy?

By early December, my body seemed headed in the right direction: My glute pain rescinded, and the inner-thigh discomfort was diminishing slightly yet steadily. I wasn’t running, yet it seemed like it might be around the corner. Then, ironically, while attending a running trade show in Austin, my back did something it had never done before: It seized up so severely, I could barely get out of bed. Eventually, I slowly hobbled to the convention center, wincing every few steps and occasionally pausing to stretch in an attempt to loosen up my in-agony back. 

The universe took pity on me: The first booth I visited was next door to a new-to-me product called Heali Tape. The brand co-founder applied several strips of menthol-and-magnesium-infused kinesiology tape on my lower back. I soon felt the warming menthol relief, and I was able to stand straighter with less pain. 

Good fortune intervened a second time, leading me to the GO Sleeves booth. While my back was the protagonist in my injury saga, my knee was a leitmotif. I told the GO Sleeves folks the condensed version of my tale of woe, and soon I was pulling on one of their 2-in-1 knee sleeves that combine the power of kinesiology tape with compression sleeves. 

I immediately appreciated that it was more flexible and lighter than a brace, yet far more supportive and corrective than a standard compression sleeve. Wearing the sleeve allowed me to forget my knee and focus on my back. When I removed the GO Sleeve that evening back in my hotel room, I could see where the strategically placed kinesiology strips on the inside of a reusable sleeve had been. I knew I’d found a new recovery tool to trust on (and off)  the pickleball court—and whenever I would once again hit the road/track/treadmill. 

On our blog on April 18: Sarah’s first pain-free running steps in nearly a year.