Monday, June 25, 2012

Perks of Socialized Medicine

I have faith in socialized medicine again-- of course it's amazing to be covered nearly 100%, but the wait that comes with that can be more than frustrating.

But in some miracle within this system, I was actually able to get a same-day appointment with a sports orthopedic doctor last week, and since then an X-ray, a posture analysis, a follow-up with the doctor to discuss the findings, and a fitting for custom-made orthodics. I also have my first physical therapy appointment in two days. All of this within a week and before I travel to the US for the summer! Phew!

And might I add, I've only paid 168 euros for all of that. Let's break it down:

  • 100 for the posture analysis (not covered by insurance here, elective): completely worth it, as I barely pay for anything else. I got to stand on a computerized pad thing that assessed where I put my weight while standing and walking, and then computerized images showed where my weight is distributed and how that has contributed to two injuries (my past plantar fasciitis and my current hip problem), and therefore what should be done to correct those problems. 
  • 68 for custom-made orthodics, and that's for the higher-end kind so I can wear them in my running shoes. The basic ones cost only 24. I think the temporary orthodic inserts I got in America because of my plantar fasciitis cost 20 dollars... imagine custom-made ones!
  • X-Ray and exams: free.
  • Physical therapy will cost also cost me some, but not much: about 30 euros for an hour.
Posture Analysis Results
Had I done that in the US, even with my insurance, I would be broke!

According to the doctor, the culprit of my hip pain:
I have a tilted pelvis that acts as leg length discrepancy. I don't actually have one, but because my pelvis is situated higher on the left side, my right side is trying to make up for the slight discrepancy and is therefore overloading for some reason when I run. My muscles are cramped up probably because of the extra impact that side has been facing, so I just need to do some PT to strengthen the surrounding pelvic muscles, as well as help along the injury, and take a break from serious running (other cardio is allowed though, thank God). The doctor said it should heal pretty well, so hopefully I'll be running again soon!

I'm pretty darn proud that I got all of this taken care of while it was still nearly free before returning stateside for the summer. My dad would be, too!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today I downloaded three yoga videos on iTunes. I've never really been interested in calming and relaxing exercise, but I'm trying to take a new approach to my still self-diagnosed running-related injury. I took some time off with running, felt much better, got back into it, felt the same as before, took some more time off, and so on... a cycle that probably indicates something is not quite right.

Today I thought I'd take a proactive approach and actually see my doctor. Since this is Austria, however, he's of course on vacation* for two weeks... of course. And I'm leaving for summer in America in 11 days, meaning that it's highly unlikely that I'll get an appointment before I leave. I'm going to call the Sportsklinik tomorrow and see if I can get in without a referral, but the likelihood of actually getting a slot before I leave-- well, that'd take a miracle.

So what am I to do?

Yoga. Yep, I've convinced myself that yoga will be the trick. And some cross-training and light weight lifting until I can see the doctor. By then, it'll probably have healed anyways.

Ready to stretch!

*In Austria, workers take five weeks of vacation. It's the law. Yep, it's the law to have five weeks off. So if you have your own business or practice, you can take as much time off as you want. And I wonder why it takes weeks to get things done here. Interestingly enough, the United States is one of the only industrialized countries not required by law to give any time off to employees. However, things like seeing a doctor, getting any official document, etc. is like lightning speed compared to here-- at least in my experience. 


Five Years Later-- Paris Revisited

I was in Paris last week during another lovely long holiday weekend (all Catholic holidays are observed in Austria), almost five years exact after visiting the bustling city for the first time. This time around, I can honestly say that my opinion about Paris hasn't really changed much: I still find it a bit overrated.

I know, I know. How can it be? Someone who kind of doesn't like Paris-- gasp. Just being honest...

On the bright side, I did get to see some cooler parts of the city not bursting at its seams with loud, obnoxious tour groups. In fact, I think the city has potential to grow on me, if I were to live in such cool districts and never have to ever go to busy touristy parts of town and never interact with such tourists. Maybe... maybe.

That said, I was beyond thrilled when I finally returned to Vienna. Here's why:
  • Vienna feels like home. Punkt.
  • an open metro: I don't have to worry about always having my pass ready to go through the gates into the terminal, because it's an open system. I also never have to worry about getting bags stuck in the gate as I go through.
  • It's a city, but it's not overwhelmingly big. Paris is SO big to me. There are 14 metro lines, numerous RER lines, etc etc. Vienna has five metro lines, and locating a stop on the map doesn't take more than a few seconds.
  • I can understand people. I know that's really lame, but I got so frustrated in France when I couldn't understand something. My French is terrible, and the times I even tried to speak it, it was a complete failure. Also, no one ever gave me the chance to try to speak my rudimentary French. They all just assumed I was a monolingual American.
  • It's touristy, but not that touristy. So, going to Paris in the beginning of June is like queuing for an eternity. I became so overwhelmed with the tour groups and the mass of people. Going to Versailles was pretty cool, but fighting my way through the crowds-- no thanks. Vienna can get crowded in the summer, but it's nothing like in Paris; one can actually breathe.
Each time I come back to Vienna I breathe a sigh of relief: zu Hause. 

And so I don't have a complete ranting post about why I kind of don't like Paris, I will end with a few things I actually did like:

  • beautiful gardens everywhere and people picnicking or snoozing on the benches
  • cheap bread, cheese and wine-- loved seeing Parisians walking with a giant baguette and just eating it whole.
  • clothing boutiques
  • the best Falafel I've ever had in MY LIFE in the Jewish quarter
  • and the best part about Paris: as an EU resident under the age of 26, I got in FREE to all museums, palaces, etc etc. However, due to the long lines, I only took advantage of three attractions. But, hey, I saved about 40 euros!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Different Side of Graz

I went back to Graz a couple of weeks ago to visit my friend Rob. I had been there before on a day trip last year, and this time around I saw the city from a local. I saw a new side of Graz:

"Before I die..." locals can write their responses on a wall on a random side street

The iconic clock tower on Schloss Eggenberg

Enjoying wine atop one of the many rolling hills at the Grazer Buschenschank

A giant Käseteller (cheese platter) and Steierisches Bohnensalat (Styrian bean salad) at the Buschenschank

Whew, it's been a crazy last few weeks. That's why you haven't seen me around so much here.

Since the race ended nearly two months ago, I've slowly replaced running with other time-consuming activities, namely socializing and traveling. I didn't intend on slipping into a lazy slump, but it unfortunately happened naturally with traveling and wanting to spend time with friends who are moving back to the States next week. Putting off a run slowly became easier, especially since I'm not officially training for anything at the moment.

That said, I do plan to run a half marathon in September with a friend, so I'll "officially" beginning training for that next week.

Strangely enough, although I haven't been running more than two or three light-moderate a week, I've self-diagnosed myself with having a hip flexor strain. Clearly I'm not a doctor, but my small background in anatomy and physiology makes it easier to rule out many of the disorders WebMD says I could have. Anyways, I've been having this strange tightness in my high/thigh area that increases after running, and most recently dull lower back pain. I'm not sure where that came from, but it could be a gradual overuse injury. I do remember having really tight hips after the race, and running with my old shoes while my current ones were getting repaired maybe made it worse.

I'm going to try the "R.I.C.E" method (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and some stretching and see if I can just take care of this myself. That'll be hard, as I wanted to hardcore training again soon, and tomorrow I'm signed up for the Vienna Frauenlauf (women's run) with my school. It's only a 5k, so that's no problem. But I don't want to put further strain on it and cause a worse injury.

Running woes.

Hopefully this heals on its own, as going to the doctor in Austria is a very time-consuming activity that requires thoughtful planning. My doctor is in his office a whole 15 hours a week. Eleven of house hours are when I'm at work. Of those four hours when I can actually go, I end up spending an average of three hours in the office (most of the time sitting in the waiting room). It's quite the fiasco.