Overcoming Intense Sciatica Pain to Run a 100-Mile Race
The pain shooting down his hip and into his leg was so intense that at times, Tim could barely walk. Daily activities were unbearable and exercise was completely out of the question. Yet he was expected to run a 100 mile race in just three short months. After having come this far, it couldn’t all be for nothing…could it? Unexpected pain showed up at the least optimal time, leaving Tim to turn to physical therapy if he had any hopes of making that race dream come true.
The one goal that would change his life
What began as a simple solution to lose weight ended up becoming a transformation that would change Tim’s life forever. He’d tried a series of diets over the years, but the results were always the same – shed a few pounds by consuming fewer calories, but after while he always ended up back where he started. This time around Tim knew he needed a lifestyle change to make this stick.
In January of 2016, Tim started running with just one goal in mind – to complete a 5k at some point that year. It was a small step to keep him moving forward and achieving those goals gave him a major boost in self-confidence. By focusing on things like distance and pounds lost, Tim ran his first race, the Irish Jig 5k in East Grand Rapids, just 2 short months later.
With his first 5k in the rearview mirror, Tim was hooked and began to set his sights even higher. Over the course of a year he lost an astonishing 100 pounds and logged many, many miles along the way. What he saw in the mirror was a glimpse of his former self. Starting the year at 330 pounds, he now weighed less than he did when he graduated from high school.
Setting his sights higher and pushing the limits
Tim began signing up for longer distances and each time he’d quickly realize that he hadn’t yet reached his limit. It wasn’t long before he was doing ultra marathons and began using back to back long distance races as a measure of what he could achieve in a single day. Before he knew it, the North County 50 Mile Race was next, and it came with an incentive to also run the 50k, which took place the very next day. This was a challenge he just couldn’t resist and when he completed both events, the idea of a 100 mile race didn’t seem so out of reach.
Along with a few inspirational and encouraging runner friends, Tim set his sights on the Yeti 100 in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Training was intense but confidence was high – that is, until the pain set in.
As a brick layer by day, Tim’s job requires constant bending and lifting. This ultimately led to a pinched nerve, creating symptoms commonly referred to as sciatica pain. The pain had actually started two years prior, but it was never really severe, so Tim pushed through. This time was different, though. The pain was so intense that simple daily activities were unbearable. Shooting pains coming from the piriformis muscle and sciatica nerve made exercise impossible. At times it was even difficult to walk.
Moving forward and leaving the pain behind
This is when Tim turned to physical therapy. He began working with Michigan-based physical therapist and Ivy Rehab / Northern Physical Therapy clinic director, Corey Kuipers in Coopersville, MI. Understanding the level of excruciating pain, and the looming goal of completing that 100 mile race, Corey worked quickly to come up with a plan to get Tim back on his feet, and back on the trail.
“Being a long distance runner requires a great deal of discipline so I knew Tim would be ready to get to work right away. He needed to get some relief from his symptoms so he could work and continue to train for the big race,” explained Corey. “Tim was extremely motivated throughout therapy, and was highly compliant with his home exercise program. This really makes a huge difference in one’s recovery process.”
Over the course of three months, Corey and Tim reduced the protruding disc by using a Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment (MDT method) along with glute and core strengthening to help stabilize the lumbar spine.
“My three months of physical therapy was a success! I chose Ivy Rehab / Northern Physical Therapy because I’ve used their services in the past and they’ve all been great experiences,” said Tim. “Corey was great to work with. He was quick to develop a rehab plan that would work for my condition. At each appointment we would discuss how I felt after the previous visit and adjust the treatment day accordingly.”
In the end Tim successfully completed the Yeti 100 without any hip or sciatica pain! Despite the fact that it poured for the first 12 hours, Tim completed the race in 27 hours and 16 minutes. He is still performing his at-home stretches and exercises to ensure that his pain doesn’t return – he’s got a full docket of races planned for the year ahead.
“I’m planning to run the Marquette 50 mile event through the mountainous terrain along the shores of Lake Superior, along with the Mohican 50 mile race in Mohican State Park in Ohio, this too will have a lot of elevation gain,” explains Tim. “The last highlight event I’m currently working towards is to run the Grand Canyon’s Rim to Rim to Rim, all the way across and back in one day. It’s roughly 48 miles and 10,800 feet of elevation gain. This isn’t an official race but an adventure with friends and we hope to make this trip in April.”
How about those 100-mile races?
“I’m still running ultra marathons, although I don’t have any more 100 mile races on my agenda at this time. But, I haven’t ruled them out for the future,” he said.
Tim is an inspiration to our entire team. His hard work, determination, and the strong relationship that developed between he and his therapist are a testament to why we do what we do!
Is physical therapy right for you?
If you have questions about pain or an injury, or if you’re wondering if physical therapy is right for you, we can help. Physical therapy is an essential treatment for certain conditions, getting started is easy, and you can see us with or without a referral from your physician. Because we have patients with a variety of different needs and preferences, we’re now offering in-clinic therapy, telehealth, and at-home rehab. Give us a call today!