This hamstring injury of mine has been a long, drawn out process. The onset of pain was May 2nd and it has never gone away. I've had better days and worse but the pain has been there for 9 months. Running, walking, sitting, bending over to put on my shoes. It's become one of the constants in my life.
Just as stressful as the pain have been the appointments to try and get a clear diagnosis and proper treatment. First was my family doctor who finally referred me out to an orthopedic. I had video analysis done with a physical therapist to check for weakness and imbalances. Then there were the three rounds of physical therapy. I took three cortisone dose packs. Other anti-inflammatories. I tried massage, yoga, and acupuncture.
Somewhere in there I took a 2-week break from running. I still trained for the Detroit Free Press Marathon, albeit on reduced mileage and speed. And I ran that damn race, even though it about killed me to do so. After that I really scaled back, running one last 5k a few weeks later for fun, until I stopped running altogether. For 12 weeks.
The first day I didn't run I had a meltdown. It felt like my world was crumbling around me and I burst into tears. My whole body shook as I grieved the loss of what is so much more than exercise - it's my release, my joy, my freedom, my peace. I didn't know how I would live without it for an indeterminate amount of time.
Getting through the first week was the hardest but it got easier. It helped that I could bike. I rode that damn stationary bike every day, challenging myself to up the resistance and ride more miles (whatever that even means on those things).
I also started going to Detroit Tough, where Coach Terra helped me gain strength and balance in her Mechanics class. Thanks to her I can do solid pistol squats, real sit-ups, and a seriously good bird dog. More importantly, she helped me remember to look at the big picture and got me through the tough days when I missed running the most.
Coach Terra also taught me to be BOLD. I never learned to swim as a child so I took 5 lessons and practiced on my own every Sunday morning. I moved from the kick board to a buoy and flotation belt to finally swimming full laps across the pool with only the aid of fins. They help my hamstring in a huge way, giving me a stronger kick and allowing me to glide through the water more easily. I can swim without them but not nearly as well.
After 9 months my orthopedic doctor finally ordered an MRI for me. It showed small tears in my hamstring, which is consistent with an overuse injury - high hamstring tendinopathy or tendinosis. Because it is not tendonitis (inflammation), traditional therapies haven't worked for me. Instead of being a nice smooth tendon, mine is grisled and gnarly. It isn't getting good blood flow to the area and healing time is very slow. Because this is been going on for so long, I need to speed up the healing process.
Tomorrow I am going to have a procedure done called Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP). Basically, the doctor will take my own blood, spin it in a centrifuge, and extract the platelet-rich plasma. That will then be injected into my hamstring using ultrasound imaging to ensure it goes into just the right spot.
This is still not exactly a quick fix. After the procedure I have to rest completely from any activity involving the hamstring (other than walking). Shut it down. I'll have a 2-week follow-up and if all looks good I should be able to slowly start up again. There will be 6-week and 3-month follow-up appointments. The whole healing process should be complete by the end of 3 months but I'll be able to run before that. Yes you read that correctly! Barring any unforeseen circumstances I'll be running again!
To be honest, 2 weeks without any cardio scares the crap out of me. Although riding that bike day after day got old, it was something. But when I look back, I never thought I'd make it 2 days without running, let alone 12 weeks and counting. If I could do that, I can do this too. It's all about the big picture, which is getting healthy so I can be back out there doing what I love most - running.