Physical Therapy Fit for a Runner: Monika’s Success Story

When you’re injured or experiencing pain, you want to know that the physical therapist treating you is an expert in your issue. For runners, those experts can be found at Performance Physical Therapy. Our clinicians treat everything from common jogging injuries to post-surgery training, to tips for marathon training recovery, and more. And it’s something marathon-enthusiast and PT patient Monika noticed immediately when she came to Performance for treatment for running-related pain.

Physical Therapists with the Runner Mindset

Monika started running as a young person growing up in Hungary, where there were limited options for girls to play organized sports. When she moved to the US, she fell in love with racing, eventually running a couple of marathons in her 20s. Unfortunately, she dealt with chronic plantar fasciitis and had a hard time finding physical therapists who were able to effectively help or were in a convenient location.

She was fortunate to meet Performance physical therapist Dr. Brian Hay PT, DPT, MS, OCS through her running club. A board-certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist at Performance, Brian specializes in running and gait analysis, sports rehabilitation, orthopedics, and injury prevention/rehabilitation in runners (among other things).

“Brian really understood a runner’s mindset,” says Monika. “He was a great listener, always took time to explain the mechanics, and had the patience to deal with stubborn, chronic injuries.”

With Brian, Monika was able to address not only her chronic plantar fasciitis but also knee issues and other injuries that she encountered as she worked toward her running goals. And later when a sudden onset autoimmune disease left her in severe pain for months and with hardly any hope of running again, Brian and his team were key contributors to helping her get back on her feet.

Physical Therapy: A Place of Hope and Support

As is the case for many runners, Monika loved the sport in part for how it helped her manage stress. So when she was battling her disease, it took a toll on two fronts — the physical pain and the inability to relieve stress.

“There were long periods when I could barely even walk. I had no muscles left and felt hopeless and lonely,” said Monika, adding that it was hard trying not to burden her family with the day-to-day frustrations of what she was going through.

At Performance, she found clinicians and staff members who made her feel supported and gave her hope. “When you do physical therapy, it’s a place where it’s okay to talk about your pain and it’s not a burden,” says Monika.

The Secret To Her Motivation

Once Monika was able to get the disease under control, she decided to tackle a marathon again. “My main motivation was my kids and wanting to be strong and as healthy as I can” she says.

Having physical therapists in her corner that understood her feelings and pushed her to reach her goals helped tremendously.

As she was still dealing with building back from flareups, and then a stress reaction in the middle of her training, an integral part of the team that got her ready was Dr. Samantha Olsen PT, DPT, who holds certifications in the Selective Functional Movement Assessment, functional dry needling, and blood flow restriction therapy. Sam helped Monika understand how to strength train when running was off the table, and she had to complete the last two months of marathon training solely by pool running.

“Sam was incredibly good at figuring out how to get your muscles ready for impact even when you literally can’t “hit the road,” says Monika.

With Brian and Sam on her team, Monika says she was able to learn how to move through setbacks. “I learned to appreciate PT because of the immense support,” she says.

Reflecting on Marathons Past — And Setting Goals for the Future

During the Boston marathon when she reached mile 18, Monika was getting severely sore and had a moment of self-doubt. “I thought I might have to tell my family to pick me up,” she said. But then, she looked around at her fellow runners with various levels of ability or physical challenges.

"I thought about all of the people who get out there in spite of severe physical disabilities, challenges, injuries, struggles,” she says “They set out their goal and do what it takes and persevere. It became a race not about time, but about simply overcoming.”

“That’s also why I think PT is so important. PT is really a great way to get stronger and ready for challenges; not just to recover from injuries.”

Monika’s running coach had recommended preventative PT before training for a marathon — advice she’d pass on to other runners, too.

This past spring, close to 20 years after her first marathon, Monika ran Boston again.

“I hope my story gives people hope,” she says.

If you're a runner or an athlete who is looking for expert, compassionate treatment, take Monika’s advice and reach out to Performance Physical Therapy to schedule your appointment at 401-726-7100. With many clinics all over Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, our experienced physical therapists are ready to help you feel better, move freely, and live fully.

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