By: Anthony Campo
The night after I injured my hamstring, I could tell this was a little bit more severe than something I could just work around a couple weeks and be fine. I knew I was going to have to make changes, and develop a plan to to maintain my strength while rehabbing the injury. Even with all of this I tried to stay positive, and still left an opening in case this was something that was not as bad as I originally thought, and I could just jump right back into the plan I was doing.
I tried to follow my regular plan right the next morning with warm-up and stretching getting ready to lift. The first thing that became very evident was my inability to stretch the injured hamstring. I have had varying levels or soreness, tightness, and strains in the past that I was able to warm-up and achieve an optimal range of motion with. This was different. I was simply just not able to stretch it in any way. When I attempted to stretch it, my body used every other possible muscle to compensate for the movement I was currently unable to do. I was unable to perform a simple body-weight squat without severely deviating from proper mechanics. This was leading to soreness and cramping in other areas that were now improperly being used. My hip flexors and adductors seemed to be taking the brunt of the work. This made it especially difficult to perform some basic activities of daily living such as getting dressed or putting on my shoes.
Week 1 of my injury was primarily a learning week. I found that I can calculate the level of my injury through taking myself through various assessments. Through what I had already found out, I made sure to do plenty of soft tissue work in all areas surrounding the hips, back, and knees. I was getting some radiating pain down into the knee on my injured side, which was most likely due to altered improper mechanics. It was proof of what I had always preached about weak hamstrings and glutes causing dysfunction throughout the body. Here I was not even 1 week with a hamstring not working properly and I was already feeling increased pain in my back and knees.
Through the many movement assessments I did on myself, I knew initially I really needed to increase my corrective work. If I could keep my mechanics as proper as possible through spending a high amount of time on corrective work I would be able to reduce my risk of further injury (or injury elsewhere,) decrease my recovery time, and increase the amount of work I could safely do (which means I would maintain the highest level of strength possible.)
I also visited my massage therapist. He is excellent at “search and destroy” technique, and not only helps to decrease recovery time, but also really helps top prevent further injury and dysfunction. I usually visit him once per month on de-load week for general maintenance. I decided that at the current level of my injury I should see him as often as possible until I was at least 70 percent recovered.
Right from week 1 I mentioned that I noticed that eccentric movements that involved the stretching of the injury area was quite difficult. However I also noticed that movements that were mainly concentric (such as glute-ham bridges) did not increase the pain. This is important because in the initial stages of an injury where inflammation is very prominent, you should try to avoid movements that increase pain. Inflammation is a key element to the recovery process, however excessive inflammation can be damaging overtime. So in the initial stage of the injury I was able to train glute-ham bridges at a high intensity. In focusing on this exercise I was even able to hit some personal records. This also was an exercise I was still able to load pretty heavy, which gave me a great opportunity to maintain a high level of strength throughout the neuro-muscular system.
I was able to continue the majority of my upper body training on the same program and intensity. Some movements had to be modified. Due to my inability to hinge of stretch the hamstring, exercises like cleans and bent-over rows had to be modified but could still be trained.
In Part III I will discuss my continued progression and recovery, along with the tools I used the facilitate the process.