Tag Archives: hamstring

On Recovery Running

Calm down.

You cannot sprint off into the pace and distances you left before the injury.

Calm down.

You cannot run like the past weeks, months, and pounds never happened.

Calm down.

It is OK to be winded and weak and dying. It is OK for the pain to still crawl up the back of your leg and nestle firmly in the root of your hamstring.

Calm down.

You are still recovering.

Calm down.

Do not make it worse.

Breathe. Just run. Gently. Just enjoying being able to run. A little.

You’ll get back, just like you have before. Running will still be there.

Calm down.

Baby steps. Baby little zombie turtle wogs.

Take what you can get. You will find the float again some day. You will sprint again some day.

Today, calm down.

 

***

 

I am trying to be good. I am trying SO HARD to be good. I am trying to run infrequently, short distances, and slowly. I am trying to modify barre classes to avoid the exercises that aggravate my hamstring. I am trying to not work out every day or twice a day.

I am trying to temper myself. So far, I think I am managing to tame my obsession, but I am struggling on the mental side of it.

I feel that itchy, uncomfortable anticipation experienced in the race chute all the time. Those terrible last seconds before the start gun. Those wretched little pregnant eternities. Yet I feel that all the time. Restrained, held back, contained. Like I’m coming out of my skin.

Getting back to some exercise has helped, but babying the leg still gives me this trapped feeling. The benefits I glean from exercise come from pushing myself to my brink, from making it hurt until the endorphins wash over my brain. I can’t do that yet, so I’m just left feeling perpetually unconsummated.

I’m trying to think of this as an investment in my body. I am trying to process it as purchasing health on the other side of this injury. Yet, with my mental balance in free fall, I am finding it challenging to sell these ideas to myself.

Patience. Breathe. Calm down.

 

Christina Bergling

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Plasma!

Three weeks ago, I received my platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection into my relentlessly injured hamstring. This came nearly on the day of nine months since the injury. It still unnerves my mind to consider all of these months of constant pain sprung from one split second of lifting my hands as I was doing the splits. Yet, after so little change so many months, this procedure was hope.

As a recap, a PRP injection includes removing the patient’s (my) blood, spinning it down to the platelet-rich plasma, and injecting that mixture directly into the injury. This is said to stimulate the body’s own natural healing. The procedure itself is brief and out patient.

The procedure was uncomfortable, as advertised. I bent over an exam table, a hole strategically cut in my awful paper shorts. My doctor’s assistant dug the ultrasound wand into the flesh of my buttcheek as the doctor struggled to make the tip of needle appear in the field. He did not find it quickly or easily. Zings and flares flashed over my nerves as he moved the needle side to side and poked it deeper into my joint.

I just breathed and tried not to focus on the pain. The pain snapping at my spine, riding my synapses in waves. My body flinched and jerked involuntarily. I tried not to focus on the detached way the doctor worked on me like an inanimate pig carcass and his assistant called me sweetie to compensate.

The pressure increased as the small amount of spun down plasma was deposited directly in my injury. Then it was over. Of the variety of medical procedures I have had, this was definitely not the most painful. Unpleasant for sure but at least brief.

The worst part of the whole experience was trying to extract information from my doctor. Throughout his minimal appearances in my treatment, his (and his assistant’s) bedside manor have been lacking. Or I have failed to communicate my symptoms, like, at all.

I initially sought treatment because of my pain level. I was functioning fine, still able to be active. It was the pain. I told that to my primary care doctor then this orthopedic. I told them the persistence of the pain was affecting my personality and causing negative behaviors like yelling at my children too much.

And yet, this orthopedic treated me with the passing attention I would expect if I came with a mild ankle sprain. I had to fight to explain my symptoms. I had to nag to get any information on recommendations on recovery or activity. I had to get pain medication from my other doctor. He just seemed to not really take me seriously, either because he thought I was exaggerating or because he thought my injury was trivial.

In either case, it made the treatment and interactions in the office unpleasant and less fruitful. However, I was willing to indulge his medical expertise. He seemed knowledgeable enough, and it would have cost months to get a different referral for my insurance.

When I initially researched PRP injections (I had to Google on my own since my doctor provided zero information or expectations), I learned that the procedure actually stimulates inflammation in the injury to inspire your body to heal it. And since inflammation is the source of most pain, the information forecast a pretty miserable couple weeks after the injection.

However, I did not live up to that prophecy. It hurt, yes. I was exceptionally uncomfortable for a couple days but neither as much as I expected nor more than I had grown accustomed. Plus there were finally pain meds to take that miserable edge off.

But did it work?

I have just completed my two weeks of rest. Two weeks of zero activity. It was rough mentally. But, over the weekend, I was able to begin gently moving again. I have gone for a walk. I have taken a barre class.

And it is feeling better. Day by day, very slowly and incrementally, it is feeling better. I am not cured or fixed, by any means, yet the pain is retreating. I have pain medication that I am not even taking. I still have aches and zings and soreness, but I am not crying from the severity. I am not miserable and bitchy all day long.

I can feel myself starting to surface again under this injury.

I wish it was just cured. I was wish I was just fixed. I feel like I have earned it after this long. Yet it is happening painfully slow for my lack of patience.

Now the challenge is to temper myself. Every day it hurts less, I want to go run a half marathon (and I did not want to run another after I ran my first). So, prior to being liberated, I laid out a gradual plan to return to my normal activity level. I had to make it up myself since my doctor provided absolutely no post-procedure instructions. I had to interrogate his assistant for the slightest guidance then still just guess for myself.

I am on week 2. Two gentle workouts. A couple days ago, I went to barre for the first time. The origin of this entire mess.

I have not been active for really a month. In that month, I have put on about 10 pounds. Yes, emotional eating as I pouted over being inactive played a large role. Yet, it turns out that all my obsessive working out did serve a purpose; it was showing. I just did not notice until I stopped. Now I have to do all that work again, without being fanatical, without reinjuring myself. I am hoping that challenge will teach me to be more accepting of myself, to live with more balance.

My recovery starts over now. Not the nine months of suffering behind me. It starts over right now.

Right now, things are improving. Right now, I can get back on track with my eating and start easing back into activity. I can start fresh and maybe find some sort of sustainable balance this time. I wish I did not have to go back to trying to slim down again, but maybe this time I will appreciate where I was.

I am SO looking forward to getting back to running. It will be short and slow to start, but it will be far better than the nothing I am at right now. I want that time back. I want that sanity back. I want to feel like myself again.

Christina Bergling

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The Next Level of Failing Recovery

What I would not give to finally be able to write a damn post about running! For a running blog, this has been a sad string of whiny rants about not running for the better part of the last year.

And well, fuck. It’s only about to get worse.

The hamstring saga continues, unfortunately. I have failed spectacularly at physical therapy.

So injury in August. Initial doctor in January. My insurance company rejected the request for an MRI, so I was sent to the orthopedic in January. I almost immediately started physical therapy and went once or twice a week until the end of March, when my therapist and I agreed that I was making no progress if not deteriorating further. So I was sent back to the orthopedic who requested an MRI that my insurance company decided to bless this time.

Last week, I went for my first-ever MRI. Even as they were just imaging my hips and pelvis, leaving the crown of my head outside the torturous and constricting tube, it was a remarkably unpleasant experience. I do not like confined spaces, particularly those that restrict my arms. I would not call it claustrophobia. Perhaps a manageable discomfort. I also do not do super well holding still, much less utterly and completely still.

So I lay in the tiny tube, where it felt like I could headbutt the top of it. I breathed through my discomfort and the constricted feeling steadily climbing my limbs. As I held still longer and longer, I lost feeling in my hands. I had to peek through the bottom of my eyes to assure myself they remained folded on my chest. Yet even through the unrelenting slamming noise of the machine, I kept dozing off. Yet I could not be trusted to remain still while I slept, so I kept wrenching myself out of the twisted nightmares reaching up over me.

(not my MRI image)

The half hour dragged on in a shapeless and oppressive blur. Thankfully, my tech was very communicative. Between each set of images, he informed me of the duration of the next set and the total time remaining. That gave me landmarks back into reality. I held completely still, bobbed up and down on the sea of my subconscious, and made it.

The MRI revealed that I have a partial hamstring tear. (Pause for my complete and utter lack of surprise. Wait a moment for me to scream how I said this in August. And December. And January.) My doctor told me they would like to try plasma-rich platelet (PRP) injections as the course of treatment.

(definitely NOT my hamstring)

I had never heard of PRP (and my doctor and assistants are relatively terrible at communication), so I have done a fair amount of research online. To summarize, they will draw some of my blood, spin it down, and inject the platelet-rich layer directly into the hamstring injury. This should cause inflammation to go into overdrive and Wolverine up my body’s healing measures. It’s also supposed to hurt like holy hell for the first two weeks due to how inflamed it will be.

I read mixed reviews online. Studies that confirmed it accelerated healing and recovery effectiveness. Studies that claimed it does absolutely nothing compared to other therapies. People who swear by it and worship the results. People who scoff at or hate it. Thanks, Internet, for your reliable ambiguity.

Yet, at this point, I will try about anything. The pain is near constant and continues to interfere with my life, as simply as restricting activity and as grandly as influencing my behavior and personality. It has been almost 9 months with minimal improvement; I am over it. Depression is starting to creep in, flood and blur the edges, capitalize and take over. I feel it taking root in my brain, planting its awful seed in all the fissures the pain have created.

Besides, my doctor informs me the only other measure we can try involves completely severing the hamstring and reattaching it. I want no part of that very major surgery.

So the PRP injection is the next step. Once my insurance blesses it. Even if they do not, I may just pay for it. I need some sliver of hope.

What I have not been able to ascertain from my doctors or physical therapist are rules, boundaries, suggestions, advice, ANYTHING at all about what activities I should or should not be doing. The answer has been consistently vague.

“Don’t aggravate it.”

“Don’t do anything that hurts it.”

Aside from the fact that by personality defect alone I will push right through both aggravation and pain, activity has not hurt this entire time. It has felt fine to be active during the activity. If not much better than rest. Yet, clearly, that was not the case. I just want some definite answers. I get the liability portion; I get the variability between patients. But come on! Give me something.

So I stepped outside the therapeutic relationships and sought wisdom elsewhere.

Running has felt pretty good all along. No hamstring pain, no twinges, just perhaps extra pain after. Yet my logical brain has snagged on how it could be good or even ok for the injury. Besides, for all those months, I didn’t know what was really wrong. Yet now, running is off the table. NO RUNNING until it recovers.

I have trouble even typing that because I do not know how I am going to do it. It sounds silly to be so attached to an activity, but it has been my lifeline to sanity for so many years now. Even though my fitness has diversified over the past couple years, running has always been there; it has always been my guaranteed hit of endorphins.

No yoga either. The other activity I have used almost exclusively for the effects on the mind rather than the body.

SHIT. How am I going to hold my shit together?

I have been given permission to walk (in short strides) and dance (minus specific movements) and maybe barre (skipping key exercises). It is better than nothing, but I just do not know how I am going to maintain the balance I have cultivated through exercise when I am not allowed to push myself past my edge. My sanity is created by completely exerting myself, completely wasting myself in a workout to leave only the high.

I do not know how to moderate. In life.

I mean I’m grateful that it is not more restrictive or that my injury is not worse. Initially, I thought I would be 12 weeks with zero activity after the injection. That idea nearly sent me into a panic attack.

I am just trying to process how I am going to do this, what all it is going to mean. Ultimately, I will do just about anything to recover, to make the daily constant pain go away. Yet, a very nagging part of me is still lamenting what it is going to cost.

So expect even more posts not about running but more about not being able to run.

The saga continues…

Christina Bergling

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Pills and Needles

Pills and needles. My life has become pills and needles. Who knew a hamstring would take over my life so completely? Who knew doing the splits after dance would land me here over seven months later?

My hamstring therapy has been unsuccessful to say the least. As per the last update, I went to the orthopedic, got a steroid shot directly into my hamstring, and was referred to physical therapy for dry needling. Since that point, I have continued the dry needling sessions, been started on pain and anti-inflammatory meds, and have started massage therapy in my physical therapy sessions.

Briefly, it appeared as if all the therapies and treatments were helping. The first few rounds of dry needling seemed to loosen up the injury. The first few days on the medication included relief. However, after the initial effect, things always deteriorate back to the same baseline. It is as if my body has a quota of pain, and despite any efforts or temporary improvements, it always returns back to that default.

The pain is exceedingly relentless and inconvenient. Whenever I sit up or stand. Whenever I try to lay down. Whenever I roll over in bed. If I move just a certain way. To me, it feels like my hamstring itself is snagged on something up near the attachment to my pelvis. If I move or activate the muscle just the right way, the pain is a horrible ripping zing, as if it was pulled too tight or at the wrong angle.

And yet we continue on this way.

My activity is unaffected. I continue to run and barre and dance as I would. Mostly because it does not cause pain. My hamstring does not hurt when I run or dance, though certain positions and transitions in barre will solicit that zing. Plus, I am simply over it. Nothing I seem to do makes it better or worse, so I have almost resolved just to live my life with it however I want. Adapt right over it.

But this does not feel normal to me. While horrible inconvenient and frustrating, the timeline of the injury is not really my concern. I can live with it still healing after seven months. My concern comes from the fact that it is not improving. At all. It alarms me that it has baselined at this very uncomfortable and unsatisfactory place. I cannot live with this being the new normal. I need some glimmer of hope that this will pass and it will indeed get better again.

My physical therapist does seem frustrated. And confused. Yet I don’t know how long we will just apply new therapy attempts until he resigns to sending me back to the orthopedic for the MRI. And even if I get the MRI, it may show absolutely nothing helpful.

I feel trapped by this injury. I appreciate that I am mostly functional and am able to plow through the majority of it, but the pain is definitely a factor. I went to get the medication because the pain is influencing my behavior, my mood, my personality. The constant pain signals agitate my brain, shorten my temper. I do not like who it makes me, especially as a partner and mother. I cannot afford to be a bitch all the time because my leg hurts. Not to mention how distracted it makes me in my work.

The situation needs to change; however, I do not know how much I can do beyond wait and see. I feel like every update I write on this topic sounds identical. It hurts; nothing is changing; I can’t do anything. Yet that is where I am.

I stopped taking the medication. Since it seemed to stop serving its purpose, I did not see any reason to put the extra chemicals in my body. I will continue with physical therapy and trust my therapy. I will torture ball and foam roll and stretch on my own to help loosen up the tension around the pain. I will try to rest and try not to aggravate it–no promises.

It has to help at some point. Right? RIGHT?


At the Mercy of the Hammy

The hamstring saga continues…

The last time I updated this topic, I had just come off Prednisone, and the pain was returning but manageable. Oh, how things have changed again.

This week, things culminated to a new peak of pain. The discomfort had steadily returned since the end of the anti-inflammatories. Then it started to get worse, hearkening back to the onset of the injury. Until one morning I could not walk, could not move on my own for an alarming amount of time.

My insurance denied the claim for the referral for the MRI in December, so I never did get scanned. Instead, they sent me to an orthopedic then physical therapy before they would entertain the idea of payment for scans.

So I went to the orthopedic. The visit was rushed and abbreviated. Both the doctor and his assistant asked a few questions and did not wait for an elaborations on the answers. I do not think I ever got to accurately articulate the full issue. Yet I was willing to trust. I was willing to try just about anything to change the situation and, especially, lessen the pain.

Then it was a steroid shot into my hamstring and a referral to physical therapy. I did not want to jump straight to a steroid shot, but again, I would take anything. I resolved to just go with it and give it a chance.

I had optimism in the shot, yet it did nothing. I know it could take weeks, but I guess I dreamed of the instant effect of the pills. Then things seemed to get worse. I doubt it was a result of the shot, but I do not know what changed. I did not notice any tweak that made it worse. I had not really changed my routine. Yet suddenly so much more pain. Like falling backward into the start of the injury.

The pain appeared more often and was called up by more movements and activities. Then that one morning where I could not walk.

Thankfully, so far, that degree of pain has only been reserved for that one instant and the first day of the injury. It really did reach levels that called up childbirth memories. Yet I now live in fear of it. Every catch and tweak, I wonder if it will fade. I worry I will be trapped like a whimpering turtle again. In that pain, I thought that was just how it was going to be, what my injury had become, and I think that hopelessness fueled the majority of my tears.

My orthopedic’s assistant did not seem at all concerned by my hellish morning, so I continued on to start physical therapy this week. Instead of mobility training or gentle exercises, I was there for one treatment: dry needling.

Dry Needling

I had never heard of dry needling, definitely never experienced. In short, the practitioner takes an acupuncture needle and stabs the muscle in a trigger point until it hypercontracts. That contraction is meant to reset the muscle, work out the knots, encourage healing.

Despite my extensive tattooing, I was nervous. Something about the idea of a needle being plunged into the sweet meat of my inner thigh. Yet it was not as bad as I had feared. The initial pierce of the needle was barely noticeable, and the muscle stabbing was also relatively minute. The pain came from the muscle contractions. The harder and more effective the contraction, the more painful. The sensation paled in comparison to that of the actual injury, so I just breathed through it.

The physical therapy has at least given me hope. Mostly because I liked my therapist. There seems to be a minute improvement since the needling. The pain remains just as intense, but the frequency and duration have lightened a bit. It would make sense to be from the treatment. Or it could be from starting to sleep with it wrapped or from taking a couple rest days.

I hesitate to think it is getting better because, in the past months, every time I do, it immediately regresses and gets much worse. The injury reminds me that I am at its mercy; then I am just crushed by the defeat.

Even as things have improved physically, I find myself struggling mentally and emotionally this week. I can feel the pain changing me, affecting my personality and reactions, and I do not want it to. That terrible, immobile morning has shaken me. It has made me gun-shy and paranoid, and it has also deflated my hope. I find myself frustrated and bitter all over again, as if my leg owes me something, as if I’m promised permanent functionality.

Then, at some point in my pathetic wallowing and pointless bitching, I realized that the pain is not the root of my mental discontent; it’s the restriction. And I think it is less not being able to do the activities I want and more not being able to reap the benefits of doing them. The injury simultaneous puts me in this nagging pain then limits my coping mechanisms to deal with it (and all the normal things).

I use exercise to deal, to manage. I rely on endorphins to tame my bipolar. I leverage time spent exercising as alone time and time to mentally process. It is a huge part of my routine and my balance. Which is a large part of the reason I have been pushing through the injury to continue the activities.

An amplification in pain was more to deal with but also took away the crutch. Add to that the fact that I am doing the Whole30 diet, and I am also missing my beloved consolations of alcohol and food that I actually enjoy. Not to mention the void of those things alters the chemistry in my brain. I cannot even use my Monster energy drink hack.

Basically, I have stripped myself bare, removed all safety pads, and left myself alone with life in general and this injury in specific. I find that I am terribly weak solo, without all my tricks and tools. And I am getting my ass kicked. It is all sloppy and just sad. I feel like a mess.

The realization helps, tames the beast a bit. As always, I find the true break is in my mind. And I am the only one who can fix that.