Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hamstring Update. (Mainly for friends who have followed my hamstring odyssey).

Image result for hamstring

This post is mainly for those friends who have followed my hamstring odyssey; others, particularly those who don't like medical minutiae, may wish to turn away.  Probably TMI.

Background Precis:  Last April while moving into our new condo, I felt something pull in the back of my leg.  I kind of put it out of my mind because I figured it would go away.  Several weeks later, we drove 900 miles to Michigan and by the third day sitting was extremely uncomfortable.  I waited a couple of week and it didn't get better, so I saw a physician in Houghton.  At this point, the worst pain was while sitting, and the doctor I saw thought I had piriformis syndrome (inflamation of a small muscle deep in the buttock).  He sent me to a physical therapist who gave me exercises to stretch primarily the piriformis and also the hamstring.  Eventually, she said that what she could offer me wasn't working, and I needed to try something else, like consult an orthopedist.  I figured since I was going to be back in Louisville soon, I'd wait til then.

Later in Louisville.  Once I got home, I saw my wonderful doctor in Louisville who immediately ordered an MRI of my hip and upper leg and referred me to an orthopedist.  Voila.  It wasn't my piriformis.  I had a tear in the common tendon that connects two of the hamstring muscles to the bone, and I was referred to [hysical therapy,

Currently, I have been going to PT three times a week for about six weeks.  I have 4 sessions left before I leave for Budapest and Prague.  I am doing a lot better, though not completely cured.  However I feel confident about travelling in Europe.

My six weeks in theraphy here were eye-opening.  I  had no idea how many forms of treatment there are for muscle injuries.  Along with stretches, I have had dry needling (kind of like acupuncture, but aimed directly at the pain spot), exercises where I literally pull a person walking behind me or balance on one leg on a small trampoline while trying to do things with my other leg. But the breakthrough came when I started something called blood flow restriction (BFR) a week or so ago. 

BRF was developed for wounded soldiers who couldn't put a lot of pressure on their limbs but who needed to strengthen the muscles.  The idea is that the therapist cuts off the blood flow to the wounded spot (kind of like a tight blood pressure cuff except around my upper thigh), then you do what would other wise be pretty light exercises but  which are hell with the cuff.  When the cuff is loosened and the blood flows back, the brain senses the injury and sends growth hormones.  It is really, really hard, but when it's over there's no pain at all.  (The pain does sometimes return the next day but not nearly as intense.)

So the miracles of modern medicine.  My big take-away from this is that if it doesn't get appreciably better over a reasonable amount of time, go somewhere else.  Of course this is more difficult in a small town, but nevertheless. . . .

Thanks so much to all of you who have expressed concern about how I am doing.  At the advice of my wonderful physical therapist, I am going off for five weeks and try to just not think about it.  He reminded me that peaks and valleys were normal and constant monitoring might not be the best strategy.  So here goes.  

#Hamstring
#TMI

7 comments :

Ben Somberg said...

So glad to hear that some progress is being made. I am sure you are going to want to use your legs in Budapest. Enjoy!

Debra Journet said...

Thanks. The wonders of modern medicine and the realities of the aging body are a challenging combination.

Bobby Mutchler said...

Having 2 Duke PT students at our home for the last 4 months gave me a lot of insight into physical therapy. Most nights at the dinner table we discussed the patients of the day and treatments they were given. Fascinating what PT can do for folks.

Debra Journet said...

Bobby, Tell Kelsey she is doing such important work!

Susan Griffin said...

Ah, the growing knowledge base for those of our age cohort: physical therapies, pain refief techniques, surgical procedures, . . .
On the one hand, thank god for all of the medical help available (none of us dying of toothache at 30), on the other hand, . . . .

Tracy Altieri said...

I am so glad to hear that you are making progress. I hope it continues as you prepare for your trip!

Debra Journet said...

Thanks Tracy, I am going to try to just not think about it for a while and hope for the best.