I have a client who began seeing me about 8 months ago. He had struggled with chronic hamstring strains on both legs for many, many months and tried several therapeutic interventions with no avail. We set to work, strengthening his lateral hips, working on deep core strength, improving thoracic rotation. He was moving better, his left hamstring pain was gone, and the right had dissipated substantially, until he came down with a significant sinus infection. This set everything into a downward spiral, including his hamstring issues. After his health improved and he started training again, it was like we were back at square one, except all of the things we did the first time around weren’t working. The bilateral hamstring irritation persisted, and I began to get frustrated that I wasn’t able to help him. I decided to refer him out, because things that should have been getting stronger and more mobile weren’t. I felt I was missing something that someone else might see. The day I was going to suggest another modality, he walked in and informed me his legs were feeling great, and the foot and ankle work we implemented last time had made a dramatic difference. He was rolling his feet nightly, doing ankle mobility circles at his desk, and everything was feeling much better. (This is the rare client that is diligent about homework).
There is nothing more frustrating than looking at a problem with a solution that worked in the past and realizing that solution is no longer the right answer. This is the thing about working with people. Something that works on 9 people might not work on the 10th person, and the thing that worked 6 weeks ago on someone might not work today on the same person. The curious thing about this situation is I do foot and ankle work on all of my clients at some point; however, I was so insistent on viewing the hamstring issues through the lens that applied 2 months ago that I waited longer than normal to look at foot and ankle mobility. We tend to look for patterns, and sometimes we look so hard for the pattern we expect, we miss the things in the periphery. This experience is a gentle reminder to remember to let go of expected behavior and maintain a more open mind when it is obvious something isn’t working. And, always look at the feet and ankles.