Just left my orthopedic doc's office for a vascular test to determine if the pain I've had in my legs since September is related to circulation. Ugh. I also just got off the phone with the vet, having ordered a refill of Aki's pain/inflammation medicine. Poor girl has been limping the last couple of weeks. We are quite the pair!
My "compartment" test involved me getting stuck with needles in each of my legs about four times. The needles have pressure gauges on the ends, to test my blood pressure at specific points. And once that was done, I was taken to a treadmill and told I would be running for at least 15 minutes, or as long as I needed to go to re-create the discomfort in my legs and my numb and tingling toes… +5 or 10 minutes beyond that.
As usual, about nine minutes in, my left toes got tingly and numb. At 13.5 minutes, my right toes followed suit. But they kept me running for 28 minutes just to be sure. Then they had me sprint back to the exam room, quickly lie back on the table, and then the doc stuck me with all those needles again, to test the pressure after exercising.
My right side wasn't dramatically different… But my left side was. And both the doctor and I agreed that given more time on the treadmill, my legs will be at about the same place. "So what does this mean?" I asked.
"You... Have it. You have exertional compartment syndrome," Dr. K said. It was funny, he sounded almost as surprised as I was. I fully expected to be told that everything was normal, and that I had been put through all those needles for nothing.
So what does that mean? Well, it doesn't necessarily mean that I have to stop running. I'm not doing damage by continuing, although it certainly is uncomfortable, and a strange sensation when you can't feel your feet after the first couple miles. The treatment is a fasciotomy, where they make a 6 inch incision and your calves and slice through the fascia, relieving the pressure permanently. The recovery period is 3 to 6 months.
Never wanting to rush into surgery, I decided on the conservative option of doing a follow up vascular test, and a comprehensive running and nutritional clinic developed at Stanford University (irunsafe.com), to determine if there are other problems, and potentially other solutions. I probably won't have all that done before May.
So the good news is it shouldn't affect my snowboarding, and I haven't been letting it keep me from running some. But it wasn't what I wanted or expected... And doesn't life just defy us at times?
Still, I think about all the problems I DON'T have and am so grateful that I have options. That's why I love that quote: a reminder that you have to play the hand you're given, and strive to go in peace.