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I am a new runner and have done a few 5Ks. I was set up for a 10K, but about a month ago, hiked a mountain with no real pain. I skipped my long sunday run, but went back to my regular run on Monday. about 1/2 thru, I felt a sharp pain in my right hamstring. I ran thru it, stretched and iced it. I went to my regular kickboxing class, and felt lots of pain in during hamstring curls and jumping jacks. Again, iced, elevated, and it felt better. I tried to run, and no way! It was so painful. Everytime I try to run, it's the same thing, intense pain, limping home.
I've been reading about it, now realizing that I needed to rest it more than a couple of days, but my question is: how long should I rest it? I hate not running, it's making me depressed! I really wanted to do my first 1/2 marathon in late sept. now that doesn't seem very likely. Should I use the elliptical for cross training and skip kickboxing for a while? This really sucks!
You should do a period of relative rest long enough for the tear to heal with a scar. Depending on the severity or degree of the tear it can be from 6 to 12 weeks for the tear to reach 80% of pre-injury strength. Kick boxing it particularly challenging to hamstring muscles. Be careful about stretching it out. Take a look at Should you stretch it out.
Damien Howell PT, DPT, OCS
I would put a hold on the kick-boxing for now, and cut back on faster running or climbing/hiking of any kind right now. Light jogging and light walking should be no problem, and will keep the circulation up so your hammies can heal. A mild case of hamstring strain can take a few days to a few weeks, if you do not aggravate the condition further.
I generally do enough speedwork during the year to cause nagging hamstring pain. If I back off on the speedwork, and work on the hamstrings directly with manual pressure, the pain recedes. Last year I trained right up to a scheduled marathon with nagging hamstring pain that would force me to shorten my stride during faster running. Even the day before, on the way to my event, I had that pain. I massaged it with one hand while driving (driving is especially hard on the right hamstring), and ran a successful marathon the next day with no pain, one of my fastest, and a boston qualifier. Temporary relief is possible, even within a relatively aggressive schedule.
When a nagging hamstring returned after really intense speedwork lately, I was able to complete a 20 mile run last weekend with only a couple twinges of pain in the hamstring (miles 9+16), and no limping or after-effects. On balance, my hamstrings actually hurt less after that long slow run, even a couple days after when post-exercise soreness is typically at its worst, and no pain at all as I write this. Yet, just two miles of tough running can irrititate my hamstrings if I push too hard. The difference is the intensity level. One heals, the other hurts. Another important point is to avoid sitting directly on the part of the hamstring that is hurting, or anywhere that impedes circulation. After a number of years, I am getting pretty good at balancing intensity with recovery, so please take my experience as an important lesson for handling hamstring strain.
Meanwhile, you can work on your own as successfully as I have, by learning how to self-massage the hammies. Some use a foam roller for this, but at least initially, I recommend using your hands to locate the trouble spots in the hamstring, because you can probably feel them with your fingers. The spots that need work are usually a bit firmer or rubbery, and feel different from the rest of the muscle in that they do not appear to be relaxed tissue. Often, there will be more pain when you press there, even a lot of pain when pressed. Let your fingers slowly sink into these spots (sitting on raised fingers works easier), so that the pain and tension feel slightly relieved by this pressure. As the circulation slows in the compressed tissue, the tension should slowly melt away with it. This technique is called "ischemic compression," and puts tense tissue temporarily to sleep. THe response to the pressure will be increased blood flow when the pressure is removed. You want to release the pressure after several seconds to allow the tissue to "breathe," which will reduce the chance of cramping or further damage. The idea is to increase vasodilation by forcing the muscle to adapt to vasoconstriction. Increased blood flow + less intense exercise = faster recovery. Good luck!
I would second James' advice. Using a foam roll has worked for me on several occaisions when I had a minor hamstring pull or tightness.
Here the link to a post that I wrote about it.
Boston Marathon Finisher