Tingling Calves

I haven’t written about my tingling calves yet because I didn’t have much of an explanation. Now I have close to an explanation. And I’m feeling much better about it.

Four weeks ago both of my calves started tingling. I remember the exact moment on the Metro heading to work. I thought maybe I crossed my legs for two long but I felt the pins and needles in both calves. Weird. Then the tingling wouldn’t go away. Annoying. All day I felt buzzing in my calves. It seemed to improve if I walked around and worsen when I sat for long periods, and my job calls for sitting for long periods of time.

So of course I googled every combination of tingling, calves, runner, yoga, sciatica, piriformis, nerves. And then freaked out as per usual when I do that. I called down Washingtonian’s list of top area neurologists and luckily got into a doctor for the following Monday, 7 days later.

I racked my brain trying to figure out what I did differently to perhaps cause this tingling. I had a pretty uncomfortable desk chair which I’ve since replaced with an ergonomic chair. On Monday night, I did P90X YogaX, not necessarily out of the ordinary. But I did really work on standing splits and half moon (I often fast-forward through these challenging moves). These poses require balancing on one leg, bending over and twisting. The next morning I went for a run – nothing out of the ordinary there. Two hours later the tingling began. Four weeks later as I write this, I’m feeling tingling but it has improved significantly. As you’ve seen, I’ve continued marathon training. The tingling has not impacted my running at all; I don’t really notice any tingling when I run.

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So here’s what I learned:

Neurologist: After hearing a rundown of the situation, the neurologist had me perform a series of nerve tests including tapping my calves and feet with something prickly, cold and soft. I felt everything fine. He shined a bright light into both eyes, had me hop around on one leg, walk with one foot in front of the other and other exercises that I performed fine. From that, he ruled out any serious nerve damage/issues. Phew. He also ruled out a pinched nerve, saying that would bring considerable pain. His diagnosis was parenthesis, which is apparently pretty common and goes away eventually. He said there’s no way to really know what’s causing the inflammation and nerve irritation. I could get additional tests done but since the tingling’s improving, it’s not really necessary. He also brought up Lyme disease but agreed it’s unlikely since I’m not experiencing any other symptoms. I went away feeling semi-relieved but also lacking the answers I was really looking for. How do I prevent this from happening again? What shouldn’t I have done?

Physical Therapist: For their DC store’s grand opening, Potomac River Running had a local physical therapist on site to answer any questions. He said he has seen this with some runners who do yoga. He said runners don’t necessarily need all the flexibility in their back and spine; it’s more important to have a really strong core. He thinks that perhaps it was a combination of things that caused the tingling. Although piriformis could make sense, he seemed to think that the nerve’s in my lower back, higher up than the piriformis since both calves are tingling. He suggested building up strength in my core, glutes and hips to keep my posture and form strong.

Sports Medicine doctor: I decided to keep my appointment with the sports medicine doctor for yesterday, four weeks after the tingling began. He’s a highly-rated area doctor and I thought he might have some suggestions on what to avoid or what to do more of to alleviate this and prevent it from happening again. He briefly checked my nerves by hitting on my knees, had me touch my toes, walk on my toes and walk on my heels. Then he listened to my pulse near my ankle to check circulation, which turned out to be fine. He said the tingling could be caused by a number of factors. It could be the way I’m sitting at work, my work chair, the way I carry my purse, a virus I got that caused some inflammation, etc… He said that the important thing is that it’s getting better. He’s seen this often and is actually seeing a local DC pro athlete for it now. There’s really not much one can do besides deal with it. I’ll let him know if it worsens at all but it should just go away over time. He encouraged me to try not to think about it.

If this is such a common problem for athletes, I wonder why there isn’t more literature out on it. Everything I found scared me into thinking the worst case scenario. So am I doing anything differently now? I’m getting up from my desk and taking more frequent walking breaks at work. I’m really working on being more away of my posture – sitting, standing, running. I tend to tilt my hips back, which my PT had told me last fall is common for women to do, especially when wearing heels. I’m continuing to work on my core, leg, hip and glute strength. Hopefully the tingling goes completely away soon! Right now, I only notice it a few times a day, usually after I’ve been sitting for a long time.

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