My problems started in summer 2003. Some months after completing the London marathon I sprained my ankle. To cut a long story short, my partner at the time was a Physio and taped my leg. From that moment, I experienced IT band syndrome. I had it for 13 years in total but after 12 months, I gave up hope that it would ever go away. At the time I saw so many people in an attempt to put it right but nothing seemed to work. I resigned myself to the fact that I would never run again.
Last Ditch Attempt
13 years on, a new relationship with an ultra runner and a wish for us to run together saw me being recommended a different Physio. I admit I went reluctantly. I didn't really have faith that anyone knew what to do. However, after several appointments with Lou at Cornwall Physio, and being the best patient I'd ever been, I could run for longer but the ITBS kept flaring up.
It was at this point that Lou uttered the words, "I think you have sciatica." I almost baulked at the thought and seriously doubted her diagnosis. I didn't have any sciatic pain in my lower back and my discomfort remained on my outer knee. I went with it though as so far her advice had led to improvements. What she suggested was quite simple: find some yoga for runners on YouTube and do it regularly.
I admit, I chose the shortest YouTube clip I could find. I've enjoyed yoga in the past but I know how busy my life is. Short is good. I didn't run for 2 weeks and completed the 25-minute yoga sequence religiously every other day. I then went for a run.
For the first time in 13 years, I ran pain-free for about an hour. I couldn't quite believe it.
Keeping The Sciatica At Bay
Since then I have found a love for trail running and have completed lengthy trail races and a marathon. This year, I've entered my first ultra marathon. My confidence has blossomed and my running is better than I thought it ever would be.
Now I know what the issue is, I have to accommodate the possibility of sciatica into my training. I've noticed if I give up the yoga, it usually returns at some point. I've noticed my sciatica/ITBS flares up when my mileage increases and I'm really pushing myself. Driving doesn't help either, and I do spend le periods in my car. Lou said having my car seat in an upright position is best so I now drive around like a granny with my nose almost touching the windscreen!
I've learnt if I want to continue running I have to keep my back healthy and stretch it out. I've also learnt that finding the right Physio, and trusting their advice, goes a long way. On the back of this experience, I recommend Lou to others on a regular basis and I have returned to her with other associated niggles.
More recently, my sciatica has returned. While it improved with yoga, I remember Lou saying that working my core would help considerably. I've just started focussing on this, opting for HIIT workouts which I can do at home. I'm in the process of completing Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred, and it's more challenging than I thought it would be. The good news is after about 4 sessions of HIIT it dawned on me that I hadn't had any sciatic pain for what felt like quite a while. I'm keeping it up and am quite enjoying doing something new.
A Little Learning Curve
I've learnt a lot about my running and where my vulnerabilities lie from seeing Lou at Cornwall Physio. Of course, I've learnt about my specific injury which weirdly started as one thing but ended up as something else (although it's all linked really). I think what I've taken away is this: if I can manage and overcome this injury, I feel there's hope for others. I went to see a Physio with little hope or belief that it would work, but it did.
Completing my first race after being discharged was the best feeling. My confidence soared knowing that I'd been put back together; I could run without pre-empting or expecting pain. And who doesn't want that?