Hamstrung: The recovery

Finally, the exciting conclusion to our hamstring injury! (Guilty of hyperbole. Let’s proceed.)

OK, a hamstring injury isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have the cache of, say, an ACL injury. But it’s common among weekend warriors. Don’t warm up, go out too fast — ping! — there’s a debilitating snap in the back of your leg. A muscle snap that if you ignore can hobble you for weeks. First, a look at how to avoid irritating your hamstring in the first place.

Not long ago, we warmed up by stretching. Then we learned that stretching cold muscles wasn’t such a good idea. Now we’re advised to warm up slowly. For instance, at our Fit-tastic workouts we jog very slowly for a mile and a half to two miles before running hard. When I pulled my hamstring Monday I was sprinting for a flyball in a game of kickball; Had I taken 10 minutes to jog up the street and back beforehand I might have avoided the injury. But I didn’t, and I was stuck with a strained hamy, a moderate strain based on my interpretation of the rough rating system for evaluating hamstring pulls.

Immediately, I iced the injury and took ibuprofen. Good first steps, according to the online source I turned to, a Web site by Washington, D.C., physician Stephen M. Pribut, who specializes in podiatric sports medicine, biomechanics and foot surgery. Follow that up with “gentle compression” and rest. That jibed with my Fit-tastic running coach Tim Clark’s recommendation, which makes for a neat — not to mention tasty and nutritious — acronym: RICE. That is, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Tim was especially high on compression: “Wear a wrap [and ACE bandage, for instance] overnight while sleeping,” he suggested. “I've found this works real well for muscle soreness.”

Obviously, it was the “R” aspect of the equation that caused me  consternation. No one likes to be benched. Coaches realize this, even doctors.

“Certainly walking is okay as long as the pain is not too severe and you're not limping, which can cause other problems,” Tim said. As part of rehab, Dr. Pribut said it was OK to run two miles “at a glacial pace.” Hold off on the stretching for a week or so, then gradually reintroduce it. Take longer warmups — “it may take 1/2 hour or longer to do a proper warmup,” advises Dr. Pribut and after doing speedwork be sure to warm down, for one to two miles, before gently stretching.

Follow this advice and, depending upon the severity of the injury, it should take two to six weeks for the hamstring to mend.

Two to six weeks?

They need to revisit the hippocratic acronym, I thought. Instead of RICE, it should be RICEEP.

For Extreme Patience.

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