I had my fourth visit to the PT this afternoon. When I arrived, I immediately got on the treadmill, bumped the pace to 8 mph (7:30/mile pace), got into a nice rhythm, and was videotaped for a couple of minutes from the front, while my stride was also watched from behind. I was told to never run again. Okay, I'm kidding. We didn't analyze the video until just before I left, so I'll get back to that later.
After getting off the t-mill, I was introduced to Paul, who is a young, lean PT who usually works with young athletes (he's a runner himself). The lady I've been working with knows her stuff, but isn't a runner (and usually works with senior-aged clients), so she wanted to bring him in today to get his thoughts. He put me through some flexibility and strength tests (laying on either side, legs bent, lifting the top leg and trying to resist him pushing down). It turns out I'm quite a bit weaker on my right side - particularly in my glute muscles. He then had me lay on a mat on my back and try to roll over without using anything below my waist to assist me - essentially just using my upper body. It's harder than it sounds. I was able to do it both to the left and right, so I "passed" this one. He also noted that I'm very "fibrous" in my right leg, too, and that (even though I roll it and stretch it), my right IT band is very tight. My usual lady then proceeded to basically do a deep tissue massage on that IT band, and 3 hours later it's still sore!
Back to the video. We'll review it more on Wednesday, but we drew a digital "plumb line" down the middle of my body in the video. My right knee crossed that line on every forward stride of that leg, while my left leg didn't. It seems that my issue isn't just my heel nor just my foot. It's the whole dang right side, from my butt on down! It may or may not be related to the leg length difference (although it's minor), but during my stride, I'm apparently compensating for weak(er) glutes and hip abductor muscles on the right side. I can't explain it precisely, but I guess I'm swinging my right leg a little on the forward stride and doing some kind of slight, weird rotation of my lower leg. I was given an exercise band and a series of exercises to strengthen those muscles. So, finally, we may be on to a solution to the problem. It'll be awhile before I can tell if my gait will start fixing itself as my muscle imbalances are taken care of, or if I'll have to somehow actively work on changing my stride. If it's the latter, it could be awfully difficult, since I had no awareness of even doing what I do. Hopefully it'll start ironing itself out as my right side gets stronger.
So, halfway through the PT sessions, I'm thrilled to have learned what I have so far. It has definitely been worth it.
As for the heel itself, it's feeling much better. I have to give my PT lady a "pain report" each time I arrive, on a scale of 1-10 (ten being intolerable pain). Today was my first "1". Even the brief stint on the treadmill didn't seem to bother it.
When will I get out for a short run again? The PT lady hasn't really given me a good answer as to when I could/should run again, but according to the Mrs. (who has been pretty stern about this), I'll be allowed to run an easy mile a week from today. Normally, she just puts up with my running decisions, but with this situation, she knows that if I get back out too soon and hurt it even more (and have to stop running for an even longer period), I'll be in the depths of despair. As much as it frustrates me to say it, she's probably right. Another week won't kill me. Besides, I've been hitting the bike trainer pretty hard, so I'm getting some cardio, at least.