How do you recover from a
Old and encrusted wound?
By Kelly Martin
If I had known that a shitty pair of running shoes would cause such a problem, I would have chosen another hobby.
It’s because the French are not famous for gymnasiums that I chose cross-country in the first place. I was not a runner, but I was 20 years old, in Paris, and very attached to the idea of good training. So, for four months, I walked for miles in the Bois de Boulogne with a pair of sneakers that I had bought with a limited knowledge of the local language. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I started noticing something was wrong with my knee a year later back in the States. And I figured if I gave him enough rest, the wound would heal on its own. I stopped running, which stopped the pain for a while. But later I started having trouble completing long hikes. Then shorter ones. And eventually it became a pain to take my dog on our regular 1 mile walk around our neighborhood.
I started making a list of everything I could say that was wrong: the ball of my foot and the front of my hip felt restrictively tight. I tended to rock back on my heels when I stood up. And – stay with me here – my right big toe didn’t bend as much as my left.
Even with my notes, a physical therapist couldn’t figure out what was wrong or how to help. (He just told me to push the limit of my ability to run, even though it hurt, even though I didn’t really care about running anymore.) An orthopedist told me I was fine and prescribed extra strength ibuprofen. A sports chiropractor told me he could relieve the pain if I came in weekly or biweekly, which I did for months, but finally admitted I was no closer to solving the problem.
Here’s where I got lucky: a new clinic, Myodetox, had just opened down the street from my house. It was sleek and cool and looked promising, and it was founded by a physical therapist Vinh Pham, who works with professional athletes and other high-stakes clients. Their method seemed comprehensive – hands-on body work and thoughtful corrective exercises, with longer appointments so you could really get into it.
During my first consultation, I met a chiropractor Kevin Sowho explained that the approach here was not just to deal with the pain as it happened, but also to make sure I understood how to keep my body in good working order for the long term.
The most important step in healing an old wound like mine, he says, is the first one: getting assessed by someone trained to see it. On my first appointment, he checked how I walked, sat, stood, squatted, twisted, and rushed, noting any staggered movements that might signal a problem. (There was a lot.)
So told me about his diagnosis in a way I could understand. When an injury is old, he told me, it eventually stops hurting because your body automatically adapts to avoid pain in that area. Over time, these adjustments persist and become insidious low-level issues, such as restricted range of motion, uneven posture, and dull aches in nearby joints and muscles.
Ideally, that’s why you treat an injury, even if you don’t think it’s that bad, just when it happens. If you let it age like I did, you have a lot more to heal.
Here’s the plan: myofascial massage, joint mobilization, and occasional chiropractic adjustments would open up my range of motion where things had gotten tight and stiff. But real progress would be made in the clinic’s gymnasium, where I would learn exercises and movements that, as long as I did them regularly, would encourage my joints, muscles, and fascia to become strong, flexible, and mobile. Also, I would promise to get some tougher shoes.
In the meantime, So encouraged me to try something new – take a Pilates class, learn to surf, learn tennis, whatever. When you subject your body to new movement patterns, he explained, you build neural connections, muscle strength and range of motion that you might not otherwise have. It helps stabilize your body against repetitive damage from the activity you do the most.
Over the following months, we began to celebrate the victories. A painless hike. My posture is back to normal. My first smooth, regular squat in years. There were a lot of high fives. We’re not done – you can’t expect a problem you haven’t solved for years to improve in a few months as much as I would like. But six years after my initial injury, I’m recovering. I have a team by my side. I went for a run the other day. And I’m planning my first long backpacking trip ever.
MY RECOVERY TOOLBOX
I learned from So that even if you work with a grade A clinician, how you support your healing between visits is a big deal. A basic home gym setup is key. Take something to help relieve muscle tension and use it daily. And go for some high-tech extras, if you like.
I was scared: my new lifestyle eliminates muscle tension before it becomes a problem. My lo-fi solution is a foam lamination session before bed. But I’m much more likely to turn on my Theragun – it’s so quick to use and I walk away feeling brand new.
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Over months of sessions, So has set me up with a zillion corrective exercises that don’t require any special equipment. These are mainly dumbbells, kettlebells, Pilates balls and resistance bands. The material we use in session is simple. But I have the pretty things for the house.
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This transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device is the home version of the much more sophisticated ones that some chiropractors use in the office. You place sticky electrodes on the area of your body that is bothering you and this delivers low voltage electrical currents to the skin. It is designed to temporarily relieve muscle pain wherever you are.
Powerdot 2.0 Duo
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When I finally graduate from treatment, Pham’s book will be my bible. It explains how to avoid body aches caused by sitting too much, hunches on the phone, and repetitive everyday motions like typing emails all day.
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