Physical Therapists, Chiropractors, Charlatans? Oh My!

Before I do my recap on the Hot Chocolate 15K, I thought I'd give a little background on why I have been feeling better and how I was able to run 9.3 miles on Sunday.

Navigating the world of physical therapists and chiropractors has definitely made me feel a bit like Dorothy in Oz.  I've maintained an active lifestyle from a very young age and never needed to visit either one.  Part of that is due to the fact that I was mostly active to stay fit, not putting any excess strain on my body to train for things like half marathons.  It's almost a rite of passage for many runners to have a go-to PT or chiro, but I never considered myself to be that caliber of runner.  And, in general, I'm really bad about visiting doctors.  My primary care physician sees me if I need a z-pak or every few years (if I remember) for a physical.  I'm good about bringing the kids to the doctor for their checkups, but I usually wait illnesses out and give them Tylenol if need be (with the exception of the 'freak out about everything' infant phase).  I certainly figured I just needed to wait it out my nagging hamstring and RICE/stretch/take it easy when my it started hurting back in September. 

But taking it easy is really haaaaaard (cue tiny violins) when you love to run and want to do everything in your power to retain your main source of sanity.  So I went over our insurance plan documents (I have a background in HR, so I can actually understand these!) and decided to start with physical therapy.  I went to about three appointments with a therapist that was a) close to home and b) on our plan.  Things started to feel better with a few visits and my prescribed 'homework', so I stopped going and just continued the exercises at home (and still do, btw). As I've said before, this made me feel better but things really flared up again after the Seattle Half Marathon.

When I didn't feel much of a difference after taking it easy most of December, I had to look at a whole new insurance plan description because our benefits changed on January 1st.  I've always been a bit wary of chiropractors, but the coverage was more comprehensive, so I gave it a shot.  The first one I saw was a referral from my husband's colleague who has chronic back pain due to a car accident.  This doctor seemed approachable and to know his stuff; he did a thorough exam and x-rays.  It was pretty clear that my pelvis is twisted forward on the left side which would explain the strain in my hamstring (as that muscle is attached to the pelvis) and was also probably pinching my sciatic nerve.  This misalignment can probably be attributed to the position I sleep in, where I'm half on my stomach and half on my side with one knee bent, in a "number four" position. 

side sleeper - one knee bended
Hmmmmm... wonder if this sleep position personality analysis is accurate... source
I experienced my first ever adjustments, which were kind of scary, and my back ached quite a bit for about a week.  I figured it was par for the course and he told me to go ahead and do some easy running, put a pillow between my knees at night, and to come back in two days.  After a week and a half of going back every couple of days, I still wasn't feeling any different.  When I asked about other therapies, like ART (Active Release Technique) or Graston, he said that I could definitely benefit from them, but that's not what he does as a chiropractor; he would definitely refer me to someone after we got my alignment under control.  Um, OK...

At that point, I decided that I wanted to see a doctor that was capable of helping me to feel better by utilizing more than just one technique.  I tried calling an orthopedic doctor on our plan and it happened to be President's Day: the sports medicine clinic was closed for the holiday.  Figuring I'd call back the next day, I headed off to a dentist appointment where I struck up a conversation with my hygienist about running.  Wouldn't you know that she's a runner and had a very longstanding relationship with a great sports chiropractor - one that works with professional athletes (including some of the Seattle Seahawks) and, yes, also does ART.  I figured I didn't have much to lose and that I'd go see him for a few sessions, given that I was just going to randomly pick an orthopedic doc from my plan without a glowing referral.

So, long story short (too, late?), finding the right chiropractor for me, especially via another runner, made all the difference.  This doctor is awesome and has not only done the adjustments to help realign my pelvis (yes, he verified it's twisted state) but he's also doing some PT exercises and ART massage.  I was feeling better after just ONE visit.  He also gave me a timeline of 3 visits a week, for two weeks and my inner type-A was thrilled with a schedule, rather than an open ended "come back in two days" approach.  So my two weeks are up and I seriously feel like new!  I'm going twice this week and then probably once after that.  He also advised me to sit and ice my hamstring as soon as possible after running.  Um, sit down?  During the day?  How I wish...  So, a tip for those of you who can't sit very much during the day: I've been bringing my ice pack inside an insulated bag in the car and sitting on it while I drive!  I sure do love multitasking...

 Anyhow, I can now say that I 'have a chiropractor' - someone to help me out if any injuries arise with my running.  Even though I'm very squarely in the 'amateur' category, I'm glad I finally went; I feel so legit!  I'm sure I'd be saying 'I have a PT!' if I had good coverage for a physical therapist and I'd really shopped around/investigated referrals for one that was more sports oriented.  Because as much as I hate taking the time, making the appointments, going to the doctor, getting a second opinion... finding the right one really does pay off in the end.


  1. I'm so glad you are feeling better, Andrea! I've been going to the chiro for the past few weeks and some of the pain I felt while running is now gone. I too have problems with my pelvis rotating (that sounds super weird), so I've had that adjusted along with my upper back. I'm on my feet all day in addition to running, so you can bet I'll be going to the chiropractor for the rest of marathon training.

  2. Glad you found someone who can actually help you:) What a difference a good chiro can make!

  3. Wow, very good to see you found someone who works well for you! It seemed like magic that you were back to running after sounding so final. Are you aiming for the full still or the half?

    1. oh, totally still the half - I'm still slowly getting back to 100% and don't think running my first full would be healthy right now :)

  4. I've gone to a Sport Chiro once for my knee, he fixed me right up and I haven't had to go back! I will definitely go see him again if the need arises.

  5. saw this product (http://110playharder.com/shop/) and thought it might help with icing and doing other stuff at the same time. I think it's way to expensive for what it does. my DIY/cheap version is placing an icepack (bag of ice) on where ever you need under a 2nd pair of tights. hope my description is clear enough. ~ A.W.