The craziest injury EVER!

Do you remember my knee injury? The one that started in Barcelona, persisted at the Milan Marathon and gave me grief during the marathon portion of Ironman Zurich? You’ll be happy to know that I finally figured it out and am now completely healed.

I would like to say that it’s been an interesting journey, but what I probably mean is… “Holy f***! How did I not see what I was doing??!?!”

Let me back up here and give you a little background. Every time I’ve seen my osteopath over the last 15 years, he always has to adjust my left ankle. It gets blocked and seized up, which misaligns with my tibia and then I have problems there too.

The first time he looked at it he asked, “Have you ever had an accident or been in a traumatic situation? Car accident? Bike accident?”.

My answer was always no. No accidents. No falls or spills.

After Ironamn Zurich I stopped running altogether while I tried to find a solution for my aching knee. I maintained my aerobic fitness with cycling and swimming. I restarted weekly yoga classes to realign my body. Whenever I did downward dog or an asana that pulled my leg muscles I’d feel a little twinge on my ankle, right where the fibula ends.

This is your tibia and fibula

 

I remembered that I’d always had problems with my left ankle and that most likely my actual problem was not my knee, but rather my ankle.

So I started paying more attention to it and how it functioned (for me). I doubled my Storking sessions in front of the television. I bought a balance board to work my ankles in a different way. I paid attention to how I placed my feet in different situations.

Then just the other day I went and sat down to write at my desk and BAM! I got it. I made the connection. And I have to tell you… I’ve never felt so stupid in my entire life.

First, let me show you how I sit at my desk. I use an adjustable stool (it’s for my back) which is super comfortable.

sitonankle

Yes, I sit on my ankle. All the time.

When I made the connection I got up and tried sitting on my right ankle. Nope, not comfortable at all and not the same thing.

Then I had a flashback… whoa… all the way back to elementary school. We had school desks that were melded with the chair, like this…

school_desk

I remember sticking my foot under my leg. My foot would fall asleep but I really loved that strange position. So much that I’ve kept it up for fifty years!

From January to June I was working on the Up & Running book (more about this very soon!) so my writing time tripled and my anxiety most likely drove me to find comfort sticking my left foot underneath me. Now that I’m aware of it I see how often I was doing it. I probably sat on my left ankle at least ten times a day.

My knee is now healed and I’m rehabilitating the ankle with the aforementioned exercises. I can now run a painless 5K so it’s time to gradually work up my distance.

So what can we learn from the craziest injury EVER!?

  • The site of an injury may not be the main source of the problem. Actually, it hardly ever is.
  • Know exactly what you’re dealing with before popping pills or ponying up for an injection. I say this because most runners want to get back to running NOW! and would rather take anti-inflammatories or a miracle drug before understanding the real problem.
  • “No running” does not mean sitting on the couch and chilling. It means cranking out laps at the pool or hitting a Spin class to keep your fitness up. That way when you’re ready to run again you’re not starting from zero. I can promise you, starting from zero is discouraging and really sucks.
  • Pay attention to your own postural habits. The way you eat, sit and sleep has an impact on your running.
  1. PaulaG
    Wow!!! It seems so obvious now :-) Funnily enough I remember having a leg issue when I was playing the guitar a lot. I would sit on the side of bed with my leg tucked half under me. I did realise fairly quickly that it was causing the problem but I imagine if you have done it since you were a kid you probably don't even know you're doing it. So pleased you found the solution and hope you are still sitting comfortably x
    • Julia Jones
      Paula, it was such an unconscious habit that I just never connected the dots. It's just so fascinating how our body (and minds) work!
  2. Jo
    You're right, that IS crazy! I'm so glad you've found an answer though. I very much appreciate your approach to managing injuries as our coach, it has always been so much more effective to adopt your advice instead of my instinctive "I must never stop running no matter how much it hurts and maybe one day it will magically disappear" theory
  3. Julia Jones
    What's interesting Jo is that the minute I started concentrating on my ankle, the knee problem went away. No pills, injections or operations!
  4. KatherineE
    Wow, I am so glad you found the cause! I may have caused or at least aggravated my hip injury in a similar way, sitting at my desk chair with one foot propped up on the chair (like I was half-cross legged in my chair). I did this for YEARS. Only when the hip started hurting a lot did I make the connection. Now, my feet go on the floor!
    • Julia
      I think, Katherine, that most injuries are not from actual running but rather our every day life habits. I find it fascinating!
  5. Tessa
    Thank you for this Julia. I do the same damned thing!!! I sit on my right lower leg when I'm relaxing at night. Totally unconscious behavior. I never made the connection to my foot troubles *insert roll eyes* I've been concentrating on improving my posture and already my calve feels better and with it my foot :) Julia strikes again! ;)
    • Julia Jones
      I'm so happy that helped you Tessa! So many people that I've talked to since writing this post do the same thing. CRAZY!
    • Shauna Reid
      DANG that is great news! Looks like the seated stork is NOT the stork one should be doing. Bwahahhahaaaa!
  6. Pingback: Julia’s Ironman Barcelona Race Report – Part I | Up & Running

  7. Michael
    I started training for Half marathon 1 month ago. I used to run 2 km, but now gradually increased my mileage upto 10km. Recently i did two 17 km session last week ( with gap of 4 days). Now i feel funny on left knee ( outer and left side, where tibia & fibula joins below knee.) pain is worse during stairs climbing or going down. Pain reduces a little after gap of 2-3days and i skip running and focus on core exercise. I use ice-pack for instant relief, and pain is still there. ( sweet and small, but it is still there). Should i resume my training? Race is on 14th Feb
    • Julia
      Hi Michael, Go see an osteopath NOW. If your pain reduces with less running you might try switching to cycling or swimming to keep your endurance up while the knee heals.
  8. Anthony
    Hi Julia, how long did it take your leg to heal? I ask because I have the Same problem for the same reason! Problem is, I have only started sitting like this in the last couple of months. But I've also recently stopped running ( due to intense workload I have not made time to exercise ) its terrible I know! But I now have intense pain with any stress on the knee, which includes walking up an down stairs. I hope I have not caused permanent damage!! Any advice?