Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Doctors everywhere. I learn a few things.

For some reason I'm seeing a lot of doctors these days.  Not something I enjoy doing, because it's such a time-suck. I'm lucky to have decent medical coverage through work,  so I won't complain too much. 

Dr # 1

One visit per year would be my dermatologist.  I get a  skin cancer check...being a former redhead and freckled person, I have to watch out...I burn easily (although not as easily as when I was a child..i have a bit more melanin than then).

Since I had to see him anyway,  I decided to deal with this bump on the back of my neck (benign cyst ) that I've had for the last few years. He said he'd be happy to remove it anytime...it's an outpatient thing...no big deal. Hmm.

 I do some "research" (a.k.a. googling) and find that yah, chopping something out of your neck isn't that bad (where my bump is anyway)..not too many important cables and wires under the skin for him to cut by mistake 8/

I called to schedule thinking I could kill two birds with one visit. Oh no you don't, that would be way too efficient. Instead we must have TWO visits.

Fine. BeThatWay.

Eventually I'm in his office...on the table, face down and he's hacking away on the left-back side. I can't feel anything painful (yay Novocaine!) but I can tell he's sawing and picking away from the vigorous tugging at my skin. I consider making my left leg twitch violently around and yelling out in unison with that...but I then figure physical humor would not be good idea when you have a guy cutting into your neck.

I do mention that he seems to be working pretty hard back there and he says something interesting: "Yes indeed, you have very good collagen". 

??? I asked him, "what do you mean?". 

He says some people have really good collagen and some people don't, based mostly on genes. He then asked me, "have you ever broken a leg?".  I reply "No" and he says "Well, there you go.".

"Errrm...bones are collagen too?", I never like high school biology very much...

 "Yes", he says..."There are a lot of forms of collagen and they form the connective tissues in your body..yours is really good. I worked in a lab studying the stuff for 10 yrs, so I should know". 

The doc sends me on my way with a band aid to cover my boo-boo and an appointment to come back in 10 days to get the non-subcutaneous stitches pulled. I still have to come back yet another time for my actual skin check. So instead of one doctor visit I have 3. But at least I found out something nice:

Apparently, I'm a bit less likely to wear out a joint or get a stress fracture, yay me!

Dr #2

This is my normal doc, and I decided to see her for a referral to a PT so I could find out if anybody had anything to say about my leg length discrepancy/duck foot/tight hip issues. I didn't want to get to age 70 and have some doc tell me "if only you'd come in, we could have done xyz and you wouldn't need this new hip/knee/foot/brain/etc!".

She spends some time listening to my story and gives me a referral not to a PT, but to a sports medicine doctor. She wants to help too and suggests some magnesium blood tests (in case that's why I'm cramping) but I tell her that's just a waste..I eat really well and also take a horse pill of minerals and vitamins so I think that's rather unlikely. In this way I avoid yet another Dr visit.

Dr #3

I visit the Sports Dr yesterday. He listened to my story of acute problem(s) (i.e. tendency to right side calf pull) and my more strategic concern, i.e. duckfoot/longer right leg. He looks at my legs and estimates there is at least 1/2" of difference...maybe more. 

He can't figure out if it's in tiba, femur or hip though but when he measure my hip flexibility he can see that its really poor to the outside and suggests a quick X-ray to check it out. I agree...many massage people have suggested just such a thing to me to make sure nothing too funky is going on in there, and I get this done in about 10 minutes.

Looking at the X-ray back in the Drs office on his computer the Dr points out that there is some differences in how the top of my femur is shaped. I can see that my cartilage is quite good and thick still (yay  team collagen!). 

We both stare at the xrays for a few minutes but the upshot is that there doesn't seem to be anthing too horrible. Once suggestion by the Dr is that my hip muscles might be congenitally super tight and that's just they way they are. (I do know that nothing  I've done or massage folks have done seems to make a wit of difference). 

He gives me a referral to 2 hip specialists.... to have them give me their reaction to the X-rays. I nod but secretly I'm thinking. "Um. No.".  To be fair he does warn me their life is doing replacements and resurfacing..and they probably will say "Running!? Don't do *THAT*!"

Dr #3 gets back to the calf sprain/cramp/pull issue and he eventually opines   that it's due to calf muscles being too tight. He looks at how I stretch my legs and notices that I keep my duck foot splayed out (the way my gait would have it) when I stretch my right leg. 

He points out that I don't get as good a stretch doing it that way and suggests I hold the foot straight, like the left leg, when I do it. I try this and, yah, it does take the stretch deeper. My leg feels kind of torqued but he says its ok...not gonna hurt anything.

He also said I probably need to give injuries like this pull a full 6 weeks of recovery..I've always pushed back too soon and he says this causes it to never fully heal, although I've gotten away with it (mostly).

I have the feeling that he's nailed one of my problems on the head with these observations. During my year of 8 marathons,  I had dialed way back on my calf stretches because that's now I tore it slightly back in Sept '09. That only kind of worked because I was not doing any fast running. If I want to do faster running I need to keep them stretched out.

He did say that my wearing of flats during the day is a really good idea to keep things stretched out. In my experience this is worth just as much as stretching, if not more.

So I leave this meeting thinking I've learned two things useful: 

Firstly, my hips are in pretty good shape. I have lots of cartilage and nothing too horribly wrong. Keep on running!

Secondly, stretch the right leg with the foot twisted to face straight forward...even if it feels weird 8)


No more new Dr visits, but  I do see a running specialist PT starting end of August. That might be interesting.

Meanwhile I'm cross-training, doing strength training and loving it just fine. 

Today I did 20 minutes of the strength training, 20 min of elliptical, 10 rowing and 30 of upright biking. Gradually my muscles are getting stronger. I can get my heart rate up and my legs don't croak.

I miss running but I kinda like focusing on something besides running for a bit...I know when I get back to it I'll be in super muscle shape!

Tomorrow, another swim!


  1. Good to hear about your bone strength, that is great news. Stress fractures seem to sideline a lot of people, I've never had one and I hopefully will never get one.

    Good to address the hip/calf issues now, might as well see what you can figure out to help you in the future.

    On the calf stretch, I agree with the doctor - keeping both your front and back foot pointed forward does result in a better calf stretch - that is how my PT told me to do it.

  2. Congratulations on your excellent collagen! I'm sure that is good news. It sounds like your doctors are all very nice people who know what they are doing - there is something to be said for that.


Feel free to leave a comment!