by Dr. Timothy J. Maggs, © 1999
After more than 75 calf pulls between 1987 and 1995, I believe I qualified as a professional patient. All of the emotional and physical setbacks that come with these life altering, or at least schedule altering, injuries for a runner were like a bad neighbor I couldn't get away from. Ironically, it was through my eyes as the patient, not as a sportsmedicine specialist, that made me truly see the void in the treatment menu available to the sick and broken.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Repetitive motion is a term frequently heard when discussing industrial injuries. Many jobs involve the same motions with similar activities and, especially with people who aren't conditioned, injuries occur. But, when talking about athletics, specifically running, we've never heard repetitive motion spoken in the same sentence as calf pull, hamstring pull, ilio-tibial band syndrome, low back pain, plantar fascitis, patellar tendonitis, achilles tendonitis orhip pain. After living far too long as a disabled patient and desperately looking for that"glorious glass of water in the desert", I realized that all of these injuries were nothing more than repetitive motion disorders. Muscles fail to recover fully before we ask them to perform again. And when we push a muscle beyond what it is capable of doing, bad things happen. None of the specialists I contacted during my 8 year war ever suggested a solution, they could only think in terms of "after the fact" recommendations or symptomatic relief. This gross void in our sportsmedicine system reverberated loudly in my brain. I wanted to know how to keep these pulls from happening.
The Domino Effect
First of all, tightness and soreness in a muscle is a precursor to all of the conditions mentioned above. The more a muscle is used, the more it will produce and accumulate toxins and waste products. Many of these waste products localize into barrier trigger points, or nodules along a muscle fiber which prevent a muscle from generating force and functioning to full capacity. These trigger points are sore with localized pressure. Once a trigger point develops, the blood flow is reduced to the muscle, fibers in the muscle shorten and now we are forced to train or race with a muscle that's set up for a blow-out. And, should you make it through this particular race or workout, the likelihood the muscle will fully recover for your next effort is bleak at best. Ultimately, Mother Nature will win.
The Maggs Muscle Management™ Program was developed out of desperation. I couldn't accept anything less than an answer, and no one, but no one, offered any hope at all. My running consisted of a couple 3 mile runs per week. Hardly the distance needed to compete or to run a marathon.
In 1992, almost by accident, I met a muscle specialist, Dr. Andrew Bonci. He had an in-depth knowledge of muscles and injuries I hadn't heard from any of my prior experts. He showed me the importance of locating and eliminating barrier trigger points on a daily basis. Dr. Bonci explained how these toxins, which typically form in priority muscles, will ultimately force a muscle to break down if left unattended. In fact, he claimed this was the underlying cause of my calf problems. Skepticism and ecstasy shared brain space and I couldn't wait to learn which emotion would prove worthy.
Using techniques designed by him and others, coupled with stretching and nutrition, I began the long process of rehabilitating my calf muscles which had been deprived for so long of nutrient rich blood and oxygen. By using his myofascial release program, I was able to get blood to all muscles multiple times per day and significantly improve the flexibility of these muscles. There was an almost immediate awareness of benefits and improvement. I was able to work out the tightness and could feel the warmth and life come back to these oft-injured compatriots of mine.
As I began to sense improvements, I couldn't help but test the waters. I attempted my favorite 11 mile run, one I hadn't even considered for 8 years prior. Upon successful completion, it was like a religious experience. I couldn't imagine, after all these years, I was given back the opportunity to run. The joy could only be known by one who has lost something of value, only to get it back when least expected. Since then, I've been able to run 35-40 miles per week, when the schedule allows. With the knowledge and experience we've gained over the past 5 years, this program has expanded into complete warm-up techniques, thorough recovery exercises, acute injury/chronic injury treatments and performance enhancement exerices. They can all be performed alone, without the assistance of anyone else and can be done anywhere, including home, office or track.
Never again will any of us have to hear the words, "You might have to stop running", from an uninformed "specialist". You most likely are suffering with a classic repetitive motion injury. Just apply the basic myofascial release, stretching and nutritional techniques, and you, too, can get back to your life quickly and permanently. Best of luck