Put my name in the pot o' firm believers.
A.R.T. is quite possibly the most heavenly experience, in a 'hurts so good, do it again' sort of way. I know a lot of people view it as a bunch of mumbo jumbo still, but hell, I'll eat that mumbo jumbo any day!
Post-LBL 60k, I noticed a fresh new pain in my right knee. Fresh new=effing miserably painful. Bending and straightening my leg became taxing and downright misery, and standing up after sitting for even just a few minutes is grueling. Me being the running injury hypochondriac that I am, I immediately took to the internet to figure out what the hell was going on. I was icing and foam rolling, stretching, and I took a full week off running to recover from LBL. Then, I ran 10 trail miles because I was feeling better. Oops. My knee was lying to me! So, when I got home (after sitting in the car for 45 minutes to get home) and stepped out of the car, I felt the twinge coming back.
Paranoia set in, officially, and so instead of sitting around sulking (too much) and seeing if I could fix it myself, I decided to try something new. I Googled ART and did a search for a practioner in my area. I called straight away and made an appointment for the next day. Gorgeous! Jeremy swears by it, and the Ultra List has been buzzing with it lately, so why not give it a shot.
Okay, let me start by saying that I have a very high tolerance for physical pain. I knew going into it, from others' experiences, that ART is a relatively painful therapy. Bring. It. On. I usually have to tell the massage therapist to squeeze harder or dig in more. So ART sounded right up my alley.
Stepping into the chiropractor's office is akin to stepping into the pearly gates of heaven, or whatever superbly awesome delight you equate with 'heaven'. I'm immediately sold because David Gray is playing on the loudspeaker, followed by Ben Harper, then some Norah Jones. All I needed was a latte and a scone! The receptionist addressed me by name (and this was my first time in the office), and it smelled really nice. Very relaxing and totally Om. So unlike any doctors office I've ever been in. Dr. Dave came into the waiting room and jubilantly introduced himself (yes, jubilantly, that's the only way I can describe his caliber of upbeat excitement). We walked back to an examination room where we chatted very frankly (but almost as if we were chatting about books over coffee) about why I wanted ART. He's very cool and unassuming, and clearly extremely knowledgable and ridiculously intelligent. I felt instantly comfortable.
After about 15 minutes of poking around on my legs and hips, doing some ROM exercises and walking back and forth, checking flexibility and all that good stuff, he sat me down and checked out my Cascadias to see what the wear of the sole was like. He called me an anamoly. My shoes didn't reflect my gait in any way. I have slight pronation on my right foot, but almost none to speak of on my left. My hips are slightly uneven, and I have some pretty obvious muscle imbalance from my quads to my ham's. Oh, and weak adductors (inner thigh), but very strong abductors (outer thigh) to boot. He was immediately able to list out exactly what I was doing incorrectly, what I needed to work on, and what he could do for me. Um, hello! Can we say, it's about freakin' time! We even went over my diet, which he was happy with (although he'd like to have me eating more red meat), and also the vitamins I take each day. I learned that the calcium +D supplement I've been taking is crap. I need a calcium citrate (not carbonate) in order for it to be absorbed (this I was aware of). But I digress!
I got my first official adjustment on my ankles, back and neck. Felt great! It sounded like a tap dance going up and down my spine when he adjusted it. Then he went right into the ART portion of the appointment. The best way I can describe it is a faster (15 minutes tops) super deep tissue massage while moving joints around simultaneously...hence active release technique (ART). It was downright painful, and I can take a lot! I could have used a leather strap to bite down on when he started digging into the soles of my feet. Holy cow, I had no idea I had any fascia tightness in my feet!! Yowza! He futzed around on my hips and quads, and by the end of it, he confirmed my personal diagnoses: PFPS, only he refers to it more specifically as patellafemoral tracking pain. In other words my patella gets off track due to weak adductors not holding up their end of the bargain, and allowing my strong abductors to do double duty, thus pulling my patella laterally (towards the outside of my leg) and causing the pain I'm feeling. Huh, cool. Cool, as in interesting. Dr. Dave gave me an exercise to strengthen the VMO on both legs (the VMO is the section of the quadriceps that sits towards the inside of your leg), and told me to focus more on my medius and flexibility. Apparently, I have "fake flexibility". I can bend down at my hips and touch my nose to my knees without any problem, but when I'm laying down and he pushed my leg towards my face, I could only make it 90 degrees before there was resistance. So, I have to do some serious stretching now. I'm not 17 anymore, that's fo' sho'!
Before he let me go, he taped up my arches as he was concerned about how high my arches are and how unsupportive my footwear is. It felt loose, almost as if it wasn't even there, when he wrapped three layers of tape around my arches, but then he had me stand up and give it whirl. It was like having angels on my arches...arch angels, haha! Ok, that was bad :) It felt great! So I took a picture...
I also learned that my toe rings are indian wedding rings. What? I've been wearing them for 12 years, not takin' them off now! Dr. Dave told me to keep the tape on for 4 days, and he would check the adjustment when he saw me in two days to see how it's holding. When I saw him on Friday at the butt crack of dawn before work, he was so excited because my hips and back held the adjustments, and things felt better. He checked my hips, and he was very happy to find that they had evened out dramatically, and when he did another adjustment on my ankles, it actually worked. He managed to loosen them up enough in my first appointment, so he was able to do more work on them this time. It felt so good. There was a loud pop sound when he yanked my ankles, one at a time, but when it was aligned properly the difference was very evident. Very cool stuff. He told me to go ahead and run (it had been two weeks, and I'd only run once in that time) and see how I felt. Nothing long, just an easy 3 mile jog.
Another appointment this evening with his partner, Dr. Anna, and my knee is singing a different tune. No adjustments tonight, but she did some fancy work on my VMO and lower legs. She showed me a simple "no duh" technique to do each time before I run, and whenever I start to feel the pain creep up...tapping my fingers on the VMO to tell it "wake up, I need to use you for a run!" She did it to the muscle while I sat there and it felt pretty cool. How easy is that! So I'll give that a try on my next run, perhaps later this week.
All in all, I am really pleased with my ART experience thus far. I've already learned a lot in just three visits. I have two more planned and I am SO EXCITED. I heart ART. I wish I could do it everyday :) It's nice to have a doc who just gives it to you straight, no BS, no fluff, just honest to goodness "this is what it is, this is what you need to do to fix it, and this is what I'm going to do to make sure it doesn't happen anymore." Love it. I'll be backing off the squats for awhile (those, combined with my increased mileage of late are what ultimately led to this, but biomechanics certainly haven't been helpful in it all), and working on flexibility training, as well as balancing out my ham's and quad's. I love this stuff!
Taking it easy this week, and next, and then...it's McNaughton time!!
Sidenote: I picked up some J-41 Aquarius' over the weekend as I've had my eye on them for awhile, but didn't want to pay $110 for them, but I found them on sale and snagged 'em. The arch support in these shoes is amazing! It feels so much better than my typical non-running shoes. I also added some Dr. Scholl's gel arch supports for extra oomf and it's great. What a difference proper shoes make. Who'd have thought :)