I was diagnosed with bilateral tibia stress fractures in mid-April after having a bone scan on both lower legs. The thought of not being able to run for 6-8 weeks was extremely frustrating for me, as I had just recovered from a metatarsal stress fracture back in November. (Yes, I take calcium and vitamin D; yes, my estrogen and vitamin D levels are normal. Suspect cause was most likely a perfect storm of building mileage too quickly, running in worn down orthotics, and perhaps wearing a running shoe that was not optimal for me.)
I was on strict orders from my sports medicine doctor to limit 100% weight bearing as much as possible in order to not add insult to injury. I had heard of the Alter-G treadmill and began researching it more with my sentence of no running for at least 5 weeks. I was quickly drawn to SDRI’s website as a San Diego location with the Alter-G. I really liked all the education on the SDRI website about the Alter-G and was thrilled to see how affordable it was, especially when buying a package of sessions. I also read Dr. Runco’s blog about his recent recovery from a tibia stress fracture using the Alter-G for 4 weeks and being able to successfully complete a grueling 50-miler. Additionally, I am a past patient of Dr. Runco’s and have great respect for the way he treats injuries.
After educating myself about the Alter-G, it didn’t take any more convincing for me to know that my best bet to recover quickly and hit the ground running (literally and figuratively) was to dedicate time to the Alter-G. Sure, I could run in the pool, but it would in no way prepare me for running outside the way running on the Alter-G would (not to mention the fact that it is exceedingly BORING). Pool running takes away all the impact, and with the total loss of impact, there is the loss of ideal stimulation to the bone to promote healing. The key is to have just the right amount of stimulation or stress on the bone to promote healing without causing pain. How do you know the right amount? You start by trying a free Alter-G demo at SDRI!
Riley fits you with special shorts provided by SDRI that slip on over your running shorts and are zipped to the chamber that surrounds and engulfs you from the lower waist down once you step on the treadmill. The machine is then calibrated to your weight, and then they have you start running at your moderate pace at 100% of your body weight. If you start feeling pain at the injury site, which I did, they tell the chamber to take away gravity, gradually removing body weight one percent at a time to the point just below where you were feeling pain/achiness/discomfort. This is your sweet spot at that point in time to stimulate healing without furthering the injury. The staff and the doctors at SDRI are extremely knowledgeable about how to structure your time, speed, and body weight on the Alter-G. I opted to run on the Alter-G three times a week, and cross train on other days, and 4 weeks later I’m almost ready to graduate to the running outside full time again. It’s been invaluable to have SDRI’s input and reassurance on how to progress without overdoing it and what signs/symptoms to be aware of.
In addition to my time on the Alter-G, Dr. Runco has also examined my lower legs and monitored my progress by having me perform specific tests/exercises. He and/or his staff check in with me before, during, and after each session to see how I’m feeling and make adjustments in the % body weight as necessary.
Many people, including me, think running on the treadmill is extremely boring. (Pool running still ranks higher on the boring scale IMHO.) I’ve never had time fly by on a treadmill as quickly as it does with the Alter-G sessions. SDRI has mounted a 51” flat screen TV with NetFlix that is dedicated solely to the Alter-G runner. I’ve enjoyed so many great shows and movies that I would probably not have otherwise taken the time to watch. In addition, they have fans blowing on you from 3 different angles, so not once have I felt overheated during a session.
Please know that I’m not a representative for Alter-G, and I have no reason to share my personal experience other than to let fellow avid runners out there know there is a way to keep your sanity, safely accelerate the healing process, and hasten your ramp up to decent mileage outside. Perhaps even more important is how it’s benefitted my husband. Happy wife, happy life…..
Thank you Drs. Runco and Allan, Krista, and Riley for your commitment to helping runners heal better and faster by having this revolutionary technology in your practice!