October 17, 2011

Quick Fix for a Hamstring Strain

This post was written by Andrea:

During the last 5 weeks, I have had three episodes where my hamstring has "acted up". The first time was on September 13th during a 7 mile tempo at marathon pace. I felt a twinge on every foot strike for about 3 miles, and it seemed to help if I kicked my leg back to my butt. The twinge went away at mile 5 and I was able to finish the run with no problem. Only a little residual soreness the next day (nothing to be too concerned about, these things happen during marathon training). Two weeks later we had the OktoberFAST 5K and one mile in I could feel that twinge on foot strike again. It only lasted for a couple laps and then I was fine; followed by another day of residual soreness. The Long Beach Half Marathon was the last time it happened, but resulted in much more damage. I only felt the hamstring from miles 3-5, and it went away after that. However, I have felt the effects from that race for a week now and have concluded that I have a mild strain.

I went to a physical therapist to make sure that I'm doing everything I can to get this better before the marathon in 5 weeks. He emphasized several points. Between those and other ideas I have found via the internet, I came up with a list that seems to be working so far:

1. DO NOT STRETCH. It will irritate the muscle and delay the healing process.
2. Ice immediately after running to prevent swelling.
3. Heat the hamstring before a run to loosen it up.
4. WEAR COMPRESSION SHORTS OR SLEEVES. This prevents muscle vibration and jarring of the hamstring.
5. Do not overstride and try to land midfoot. The lower leg should be at a 90 degree angle when the foot hits the ground. This prevents extra stress on the hamstring to pull the leg back.
6. Strengthen the hips and core - specific exercises like side planks, resistance band hip abduction, etc.
7. MASSAGE. It definitely isn't pleasant, but helps a lot.
8. Do the Swiss ball hamstring curl to work muscle in full range of motion, but make sure there is no pain (Youtube Video).
9. Ibuprofen if necessary. 
10. Cross training. The bike, pool running, and elliptical put much less stress and can help get the aerobic exercise without any pounding.
11. NO HARD, FAST INTERVALS. Marathon pace running could be okay, but anything faster should be done with caution, if not completely avoided.

I have done all the items on this list for the past week. I can still feel a slight burning/aching sensation every once in a while, but the strain has definitely gotten better. I was even able to run 22 miles on Saturday without a problem (besides being tired, of course). I hope this advice can help others if they start to feel a hamstring injury developing.

[Update 8/8/2012]: I have come across several articles that have VERY valuable information that I would highly suggest looking through - 

Preventative Effect of Eccentric Training on Acute Hamstring Injuries. This hamstring exercise training protocol proved to be a huge success - 

"For the entire group of players, the hamstring injury rate for the training group was 3.8, compared to 13.1 for the control group (normalized values based on the number of players and length of each team’s season). That is a 71% decrease in the rate of injury using a simple program of Nordic hamstring training. For new injuries, eccentric training reduced the injury rate by more than 60%. For recurrent injuries, the rate was lowered by about 85%!" From here.

Preventative Exercise Progression for Hamstring Strain. This is a great program to follow for strengthening the hamstrings. I would incorporate the Nordic Hamstring exercises as well!

Does anyone have other suggestions for recovering from a hamstring injury? 

Luckily Andrea has skinny legs, and was able to use a "calf" compression sleeve on her thigh, worn under compression shorts, to keep her muscles warm and stabilized on our long run over the weekend. Thanks to the guys at Salt Lake Running Company for thinking of this trick.

Calf sleeve on the thigh for compression

And some unrelated pictures... ready to attack breakfast post-Long Run... the only problem w/ long runs is sometimes they actually take away your appetite for a few hours... we couldn't even finish half of our breakfast and ended up bringing most of it home!

And that pretty much sums up how a 22 miler at 6500 feet feels

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