Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Follow-up Orthopedic Appointment: This is Not Good

Since my shinsplinty-things seem to be getting worse -- or at least more consistently present -- I'd scheduled another follow-up visit with my Orthopedist.

Here's what I hoped would happen:

My orthopedist confirms the diagnosis of shinsplints and sends me to physical therapy.  I learn a bunch of new stretches and exercises and go on to qualify and probably even win the Boston Marathon.

What really happened:

My orthopedist found that I have good strength in my leg and foot muscles and that -- regrettably -- it's time for us to more seriously explore Exertional Compartment Syndrome as a possibility.  This will involve a huge needle being jammed into my leg muscles both "at rest" and after a long-enough run to induce symptoms (so probably 10 minutes, roughly one mile).  If the test confirms ECS, then my best option is surgery.

Good.  Great.  Terrific.

Basically, Compartment Syndrome is when a fibrous tissue membrane, the fascia, around a muscle is too tight to account for the muscle's swelling during exertion.  (Please consult medical websites for a more scientific description.  I'm -- surprise! -- not a doctor).

Here's a website with a good picture that demonstrates this.  (Note:  DO NOT do a "Google Image Search" for "Compartment Syndrome".  Trust me, it's a lot of gross surgery pictures that make me want to retire from this running thing.)

I'd guess that my problem is going to be in the anterior compartment and lateral compartment on my left leg.

So, bad luck for me.  But, excellent for you, since if privacy regulations allow it, I'm going to have my staff photographers (me and my wife) take some pictures of the compartment syndrome test, and maybe Chris can even be in the operating room taking pictures and interviewing surgeons as they cut out parts of my leg.

The test is scheduled for April 16.  I may push it back if the doctor thinks that the test itself is traumatic enough that it will prevent me from limping through Sole of the City, with some help from anti-inflammatory meds, on April 20.

I'll keep everyone posted as I freak the hell out.


  1. Ugh.

    One thing I learned in my 2-year fiasco with my foot is that 2nd and 3rd opinions won't hurt and just because a doctor says to have surgery or you'll never run again (as mine did) that may not necessarily be the case (as in mine). Follow your heart and if this isn't sitting right then seek another opinions. If two or three confirm the same thing then that's what it is. Seemed like ever PT I saw had a different story about my foot.

    Hang in there!

    1. Thank you, Jill. I definitely appreciate the advice. The diagnosis seems right because it just doesn't get better with rest like shinsplints seem like they should...and I guess the test will confirm or not.

      I'd like to get some more opinions before I have surgery, but mostly because the thought of having surgery terrifies me.

      (I shouldn't have done that google image search!)

      I've already lost a year of racing to this and so I need to consider what's my best option for both the October 2013 Half I'm signed up for, the March 2014 marathon I'm signed up for (these deferrals are stacking up!), but as well as the longer-term than that, like what are the risks of this and do I still love running enough to risk it? I wish I was more sure of that one.