As I look back and reflect on my last year of not running, and as I think about the emotions that I went through and the steps that I took to repair and heal my hamstring, I hope that my experiences will help another who might be dealing with the same kind of injury.
First and foremost, you know your body better than anyone else. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Looking back, I realize that I missed the warning signs. Now, I know that the most prominent signal that something was brewing was the pain that went through my butt every time I sat down. The ischial tuberosity hides under the glutes so, when you sit, the glutes move and you are on your sit bones, or the ischial tuberosities. I always attributed the discomfort that I had while sitting to not having a lot of fat. Similarly, I attributed any tightness or discomfort that I may have had through my hamstrings and butt to finishing a tough run (or race) or to a higher mileage week. Not once did I imagine that my right hamstring was gradually fraying, which resulted in a 50% tear.
Secondly, stay positive. In the past 10 months, I have worked with my family doctor, 2 sports medical doctors, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, a chiropractor and a few physiotherapists. For the most part, my visits with each of them were positive but there were times when I left feeling down. Some days, anything from a doctor’s silence to a comment such as “That’s unfortunate” or “I hope this will help you” would scare me or send me into tears and leave me wondering “Will I ever be able to run again?” I had to believe that I would heal and that any fitness lost would be regained.
And so I followed my gut. While I knew that my tuberosity would heal, it took months to find the right treatment, primarily because I had to wait almost 4 months for the correct diagnosis. It was my GP, not my sports med doctor, who booked an MRI for me, and that had a 3 month wait. I had just started to run a week before my appointment and thought about cancelling it, but something still seemed off; my gait just didn’t feel right. My son convinced me to follow through with the MRI as it would give me more information about my injury. He was right. The hamstring tear turned out to be deeper than we originally thought. It was the MRI that led to one sports medical doctor’s referral to another who specializes in hips and to a different physiotherapist, one who targeted strengthening the glutes and hamstrings, followed by another who realigned my pelvis. And when the physiotherapists gave me exercises to do, I did them no matter how boring they were or spastic I felt.
During my healing and recovery, I focused on what I could do, not on what I couldn’t. I spent hours each week on my windtrainer so that I could hold onto my cardio; within a 10 month period, I had ridden more than 3000 miles. I worked on my core and upper body while strengthening my hamstrings and glutes by heading to the yoga studio 3-4 times a week (sometimes more). I started swimming again and, by June, I was pool running to start rebuilding the same muscles that I use when I run outside. I set goals that were achievable and I met them almost every single week.
But it still wasn’t enough. I had done everything that the doctors and physiotherapists had suggested but my right leg just didn’t feel strong whenever I tried to run. So I followed my gut again and went back to the hip specialist, who proceeded with platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy at the end of June. Ultimately, it was the PRP injection that had the greatest impact on my healing. The doctor had cleared me to run only 3 weeks after the injection, not after the usual 8 week period, and, for the first time in almost a year, my legs felt strong again.
In the past year, the most valuable lesson that I have learned is to listen. I learned how important it is to pay attention to my body, to what feels right and what doesn’t. I listened to my professionals and followed through with their advice. If my gut told me that things still weren’t right, I went back again and again until I found the right form of therapy. I never gave up. Yes, I got frustrated and, yes, sometimes I cried, but I also believed that I would eventually heal and get back to chasing my dreams.