I have a condition that the medical world calls “hallux valgus.” Also known as a bunion, it basically means a foot deformity. To put it mildly, I actually have extreme deformities. Over the years, the symptoms worsened and began to affect my ability to walk and run. My lower-extremity muscles were always tight and I felt no relief throughout the day.
Soon, my knees became impacted as well and I blew out both, resulting in bilateral meniscal repairs. My hamstrings and quads would constantly get strained and my glutes didn’t have the strength and flexibility to support my daily activities. The result was musculoskeletal dysfunction in basically any way you could imagine along the kinetic chain.
For the past 17 years, I’ve tried aerobics, yoga, professional stretching facilities, aquatic classes, physical therapy, physician care and even surgical intervention, with little positive effect. I grew up an athlete and it was devastating to no longer be able to participate in sports like basketball and other athletic activities. I even had to step away from coaching, which was truly disheartening.
So two years ago, I decided to have a bunionectomy to correct the deformity in my right foot. I had heard about the pros and cons of this surgery, but with all my ailments I took a leap of faith and went through with it. After the procedure, I felt a lot of pain but was generally pleased by the physical appearance of my foot.
Holding Out Hope
Unfortunately I continued to encounter stiffness issues, which I clearly felt from the tips of my toes all the way to the back of my head. Anxious to alleviate this condition, I went to the outpatient physical therapy clinic at VA San Diego Healthcare System. “Could there be hope here?” I thought to myself.
Kate Miller, PTA, BSPTA, CFT, was the physical therapist assistant who would treat me. A firecracker, she happily pranced over after looking at my chart. Kate inquired about my pain, so I briefed her on my background. She then made a few observations, including that I had an unorthodox gait, and detailed my treatment plan.
After asking me to lie down on the table, Kate proceeded to wrap my legs and feet with hot towels to warm and loosen my muscles. To be honest, the heat alone felt great. She then pulled out instruments that looked straight out of a dental office – or cooking show. These were HawkGrips, she said, which would break down the scar tissue that had formed because of my surgical history, along with the repetitive and chronic musculoskeletal dysfunction.
Healing Power of HawkGrips
I didn’t know it at the time, but instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) with HawkGrips turned out to be the treatment that finally enabled me to return to my prior life. Following the verbal education by Kate, she began to treat my legs and feet with the instruments (that I now call amazing). I initially felt some discomfort, but after just a few minutes my feet relaxed and I could even move my toes. Following that first session alone, there was less pain and stiffness in my feet than I had felt in years!
Kate continued to provide IASTM treatment to me with HawkGrips for 10-12 visits over the course of a few months. The overall treatment sessions lasted an hour each, with the manual portions comprising about 10-20 minutes. Warm-up would often include moist hot packs to my legs and feet, and on days when my pain was greater than usual I’d receive ultrasound as well. I actually think IASTM and ultrasound are a great combination for pain reduction.
Kate would start at my feet, before moving to the Achilles tendon and calf. She also worked up the kinetic chain and fascial lines to help relieve the symptoms impacting my back and shoulders. I felt immediate relief during each treatment session and became increasingly able to participate in the activities that once brought me joy. My squats were slowly corrected, I began to run (yes, run!), and I even returned to coaching.
Now that the sessions have ended, I don’t get to see Kate much anymore, which is a bummer. But those IASTM treatments definitely let me feel like myself again. To this day, my functional ability is much better than it used to be and I’m very grateful for the beneficial impact HawkGrips have made on me.
Tyrone King is a 39-year-old U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1996-2004 and now lives in the San Diego area.
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