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Apr 20, 2022

When Injury Puts You on Ice

As someone who’s run since high school, I’ve experienced my fair share of injuries. Shin splints, pulled muscles, twisted ankles – been there, done that. After my first and only marathon, I was sidelined with a stress fracture and took months off running before I was cleared to start again.

That was more than 20 years ago. I’ve been mostly injury free until this year.

On one cold January day, I was enjoying a brisk winter run on snow-covered trails. I was moving just fine on the snow, but the ice was another story. I slipped on one icy patch and fell to the ground, then quickly got up and shook myself off. I didn’t feel hurt, just a bit shaken up, so I went on and finished the short run.

I was sore the next day but figured that feeling would go away in another day or so. But it didn’t. In fact, the pain got worse in my left hip. Even just sitting in certain positions had my left side screaming. I stretched and stretched, but the pain still lingered day after day and sometimes even at night.

Oddly, it did not hurt when I ran. I continued to do a few easy runs and looked more carefully for icy patches on the road. I felt great when I finished each run, only to wake up with extremely sore glutes and hip muscles that ached throughout the day.

I hardly ran at all in February after getting sick, but the pain remained, even when I was in bed. By early March, more than one month after my fall, I had no improvement in my hip, and I knew I needed professional assistance.

I scheduled an appointment with a physical therapist who was also a runner and a member of one of my local running groups. She was able to diagnose a labral tear in my left hip, which according to Hopkins Medicine, is an injury to tissue that holds the ball and socket parts of the hip together. It says a torn hip labrum may “cause pain, reduced range of motion in the hip and a sensation of the hip locking up.” They can be caused by overuse or “traumatic injuries.”

That sounded exactly like what I was experiencing, although my fall on ice didn’t seem all that traumatic when it happened. Still, that ice probably made my legs go all sorts of different ways as I fell, which led to torn tissue.

While some serious tears need to be treated with surgery, my physical therapist recommended exercises to strengthen and stretch the hip muscles to alleviate the pain and help repair the tear. I’m seeing her once a week for a month, and she puts me through stretching sessions that target the hips and then gives me exercises to do at home. Minimal equipment is required – I get my home sessions done with resistance bands and a tighter strap I wrap around my leg for the hip movements.

Some of the home exercises (like bridges) also mimic Pilates movements, so I’ve added more Pilates workouts to schedule. I love Pilates anyway, and they feel extra good now on my sore hip.

My physical therapist said I still can do some running as long as I take it easy and run on flat surfaces like roads to avoid hip rotations. That’s put my trail running on hold for now, as I can’t afford to navigate uneven terrain or slip on tree roots, branches or mud. (At least the ice is gone!)

I’m glad I sought help when I did. Please take your injuries seriously. Treating them now versus later can prevent you from having to undergo more intense procedures like surgery and can help you ease back on to the road in a healthier way.

By Shannon Shelton Miller /Twitter: ShannonSMWrites, Instagram: shannon.shelton1

Shannon Shelton Miller is a longtime writer and journalist who enjoys writing about sports, fitness, health, beauty, and parenting. She has been running for 27 years, starting from joining her high school cross country team. She has run a marathon, two half marathons, and countless 5K and 10K races.