On Pins and Needles

I have been having hamstring issues for a very long time.  It was an intermittent problem until RnR DC last year when my knee went wonky.  At the time, I thought it was a new problem with my IT band but it has become clear that it’s just a continuation of my hamstring problem.  Since I’m training for a very hilly race, and running as many hills as I can find – plus dedicated speedwork and hill repeats every week – the problem has intensified.

My first 20 miler of this training plan was cut at 16 because I literally couldn’t lift my right leg any more to get up the hills. Not good!

I’ve been trying to find a chiropractor that I like and that I can see with my goofy schedule and I kept striking out.  The two I had before both left the area.  I had been eyeing a third for a bit and finally decided to see him last Monday.

He confirmed that my hamstring was the culprit but there were no tears or major damage.  He used dry needling plus TENS stimulation, some Graston therapy, and manual manipulation, and then taped up my hammie with 4″ Rock Tape.  It worked wonders!  I ran pain free for most of the week and my leg didn’t really bother me until mile 18 of the 20 miler.

Here’s a little description of the different therapies:

Dry Needling is when the therapist uses acupuncture needles to stimulate the muscle.  In my case, he did it in my upper thigh (lower butt) and lower on the back of my thigh.  The first time, he just inserted the needles for a few minutes and then used a TENS machine to briefly “zap” each part of the muscle – it doesn’t hurt but I did feel a bit like a dissected frog! (I won’t gross you out but google “dissected frog muscle twitch” if you don’t know what I mean). The second time, he “dug” a little deeper to really activate the muscles.  I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t a lot of fun.  It wasn’t unbearable but I wouldn’t want to do it for more than a few minutes at a time.

Graston Technique is when a metal tool is used on soft tissue to break down scar tissue.  The back of my thigh is riddled with scar tissue.  It almost feels like a sheet of braille, with all of the bumps!  Breaking up the adhesions will help eliminate muscle constriction and improve function.


Manual manipulation basically consisted of his assistant moving my leg though a series of motions while he applied pressure to various parts of the hamstring.  At the treatment yesterday, I was able to feel the muscle dramatically release at one point – it was pretty awesome!

The final step is to tape the hamstring to provide extra support.  This step is optional and will depend on my training plan for the week.  Since I was facing a heavy week and he was booked for the rest of the week, taping last Monday was a good call! The tape is super adhesive and I was able to wear it through Friday with no rolling or pulling away from the skin.

My plan to see the same practitioner twice a week until the marathon.  In addition to this, I am also working on my unilateral leg strength (bridges, single leg deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, etc) and trying to be more mindful of my stretching and rolling.  I noticed today that the pain is significantly reduced and I am pretty positive that I will be able to keep it in check through the rest of my training.

What therapies have you used to keep on the road? Would you consider more invasive alternative therapies?



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