I’m Back in OPT* (Yeah You Know Me)

It’s that time again kids… time for physical therapy! And I’m super excited about it because it means I’m back!

The physical therapist officially gave me his blessing to get back out running (YAY!), and gave me a copy of a running plan that will help guide my activity and treatment depending on what, if any, pain I feel. I was so happy that I wanted to go straight out of his office and run around, but unfortunately I had to go back to work… and then stay late for a fancy event… but this weekend I will run and it will be amazing! … Maybe. It might hurt. We’ll see. I’m just pumped to get back out there!

The orthopedist I saw all those weeks ago referred me to this particular PT who seemed awesome because (a) his office is close to mine, and (b) he used to be the PT for the New England Revolution and has all these thank-you letters on his site from people like Alexi Lalas that say things like “Thanks for getting me back on the field so quickly!” He seemed legit to me, and if he could help all those pro soccer players, then I had faith he could help me deal with my wonky ankles.

My first appointment was yesterday, and it was pleasantly different from all the other ankle-related PT appointments I’d had in years past. (Those mostly consisted of the PT telling me I had to learn to walk differently and then massaging my calf muscles so hard that I’d cry.) This PT asked me all the usual questions, then tested the mobility of my ankles. Apparently I have extremely loose ankles (?) and, in his opinion, I should have been a gymnast because of that. Too bad I’m not graceful enough! He also assessed my posture and suggested orthotics because of my rampant over-pronation. It turns out I over-pronate more severely with the foot attached to my injured ankle. Hmmmm.

Then the fun started. He warmed up my ankle with a heavy-duty heating pad, then used an ultrasound machine. I was so confused, I kept looking for the screen that would show what the insides of my ankle looked like (like a baby ultrasound), but it turns out that ultrasound can be used for physical therapy too. I had no idea! Apparently it boosts blood flow to speed up the healing process, reduces swelling, and softens scar tissue. Once that was done, he started using a Graston tool to look for and start removing scar tissue on my ligaments. He found a significant patch a few inches above my ankle, and while it made me cringe as he was scraping at it, it felt amazing once he was done. In fact, my ankle had been feeling a bit dodgy that morning, but afterwards it felt great – no pain at all!

He assigned me some exercises and had his assistant lead me through them (there were 3-4 other patients in there with me the whole time… it was a very frenetic office!), then told me to get back out there and start running again. Yes, sir! Gladly! I just have to brace myself that I won’t be able to run as far or fast as I was right before I got injured… it has been over a month, after all. (The PT measured my calf muscles at one point and told me they hadn’t atrophied at all, so at least that’s a good sign!) Hopefully I can keep myself from getting discouraged.

* “OPT” because it fit the song better than just “PT.” The “O” can stand for “orthopedic,” right?

Do you use orthotics? Do you find they affect your running at all, positively or negatively?

How long does it usually take you to get back in your running groove when you’ve been sidelined?

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