Our vision of a 22 year old runner does not usually include debilitating back pain.  Right?

So imagine Alejandra, a strong, active,  young San Diegan who has run 2 half marathons (13.1 miles) with no issues besides some intermittent ankle pain.  Her average runs are between 3-4 miles a couple times each week with a 5 mile run once a week or so.  This day she decides to go out for a 7 mile run to access her fitness level for an upcoming race.  On hilly terrain.

2013-06-02-09.02.44-e1373691085795Sound good?  Hmmmm…maybe not!  After the run she has a lot of low back pain and is really worried.  With her mother’s chronic low back issues and 2 lumbar surgeries, Alejandra fears she has inherited the same issues.  She stops training and withdraws from the scheduled Half Marathon.

When Alejandra came to me for help she had been in a lot of pain for a while.  During our assessment I determined that her sacroiliac joint (SI joint) was fixated and was most likely the cause of her pain.  Her lumbar spine seemed only slightly involved and I hoped those issues would dissipate as we re-mobilized and stabilized her pelvis.

One of Alejandra’s first questions to me was, “Do you think I’ll be able to run again?”  I told her we should wait and see but from my initial assessment I was pretty confident we’d have her back in training in a few months.

After our first session her pain subsided dramatically and after a few weeks it was clear her body was responding to our Yoga Therapy sessions, icing, and hot Epsom salts baths.  She was consistent with the therapeutic homework I had given her.   My focus was to reduce inflammation, re-align the hips, sacrum and spine, stretch the calves/back and stabilize all the affected joints.

A few months later, Alejandra was doing so well that I was ready to start coaching her on a cautious training schedule.  Our first order of business was new shoes that stabilized her old ankle injury and decreased compression on her back.

Starting to run again requires so much patience with more walking than running at first.  It’s essential to assess how the body responds to the increased activity and make corrections if pain, strain or weakness show up.  This is the only way to build the body up safely after a long period of recovery.

After each run Alejandra took Epsom salt baths, iced and did her Yoga Therapy homework.  Each week she was able to add pain-free mileage to her work-outs.  And cross training!  Did I mention that?  At least one work-out a week was on a stationary bike to build cardio and strengthen the legs without impact.  Running on a treadmill (although not a true replacement for outdoor running) was a great way to get her legs and cardio back in a controlled environment.

And what a success!  On an early June Sunday morning I stood with her family and cheered her across the finish line in her fastest time yet!  I cried with the joy of seeing this beautiful young woman succeed at something she loved so much and had fought so hard to achieve.  I felt privileged that she had trusted me enough to let me be her coach on her road back to health.

Way to go girl!

What are some of the signs that your SI joint is fixated, strained or not moving freely?  1. After sitting for long periods you feel very stiff standing up.  2. When sleeping it’s painful turning over. 3. You feel achy from the low back all the way up the neck. 4. There’s a deep throbbing pain across the low back and/or hips especially when standing for long periods. 5. Your legs feel heavy or like they may give way under you. 6. It’s painful to bend over and painful to stand back up.