Just over six weeks ago, I had a vision. My Pilates instructor and I were discussing goals, and I immediately imagined myself flexible and limber enough to do a full straddle split. While I thought this flexibility would be particularly beneficial in the bedroom, it would also help my running performance and gymnastics.
And so I became a man on a mission – and worked tirelessly to stretch my tightened leg muscles. On one such occasion, I held a deep straddle stretch and timed it for five minutes. By the end, my brow was dripping in sweat and I knew that I had pushed myself. Perhaps, a little too far.
Muscles stretch best when warmed up, and so I always do cardio before any sort of static stretching. In this instance, however, my warm-up wasn’t enough and my stretch was too deep – and it soon became clear that my hamstring muscle was pulled.
First, I’m not a doctor – and so I’m not in the business of giving medical advice. I will share, however, how I was able to treat my pulled muscle using a popular method called R.I.C.E. It includes rest, ice, compression and elevation. I’d also add a “P” to the acronym, short for patience, and thus advise the “P.R.I.C.E.” method.
- Patience. I am six weeks into my pulled hamstring recovery, and I’m still not fully healed. It takes time. Lots of it. You must have patience with your body or else you’re going to experience a great deal of frustration.
- Rest. As an avid runner, having to skip cardio or leg workouts felt like a prison sentence. However, continual strain causes increased inflammation – and increase recovery time. You should rest until the pain is gone – and know that this may take many, many weeks.
- Ice. Icing an injury for 15 minutes, several times a day, is a great way to reduce inflammation. Go the the pharmacy and get yourself a decent, reusable ice pack. Wrap it in a paper towel and apply the ice pack to the injured area.
- Compression. An elastic bandage or tape can reduce the swelling that results from the inflammatory process.
- Elevation. Elevating your leg both aids in the waste removal process and decreases inflammation.
Of the five, I believe that patience and rest are paramount. They’re also the most difficult. I keep finding myself thinking, “Oh, a little run couldn’t hurt.” But in reality, you’re likely to just further extend and already long recovery time. Give your body time to repair, rebuild and recover.
Within another week or two, after missing nearly two months of cardio, I’ll be getting back into the game. I’ll enjoy working back up to my previous abilities… just don’t expect a split anytime soon.
Have you ever suffered from a pulled hamstring? Let me know about it in the comments below. How did you recover?