Choosing How to Heal an Injury

Injuries happen to everyone. Our bodies get out of balance from stress, repetitive movement, poor posture, over-exercise, a lack of sleep, poor nutrition and from just living our lives. How we handle these injuries can affect our pain level, the time it takes to heal and the residual effects after the initial injury has healed.

We all have choices when it comes to fixing an injury. Sometimes our choices are restricted by what is covered by insurance. However, the most effective treatment modalities with the least side effects may be from medical professionals outside the parameters of insurance. Often a combination of treatments works best.

If you have a serious injury such as a broken bone, a deep wound, a heart attack, severe swelling or extreme pain, the treatment is clear. But most injuries are not that serious, but are still annoying with intermittent pain or discomfort that restricts range of motion. Often we hope that if we ignore it, the injury will heal itself. We don’t modify our activities, we don’t rest and we don’t listen to our bodies. That’s what I did, and I was very wrong.

Forty-five minutes into teaching a Barre class, I was demonstrating an exercise I do all the time when I felt a huge “pop” in my left outer thigh. I froze. I never experienced anything like this before. I was frightened. A student near me said, “Was that you? Are you okay?” I didn’t know.

Cautiously I took a step. Then another. I moved my leg slowly in different directions. It felt normal. I had no pain, only a sensation in the area where the “pop” occurred. Another student asked, “Do you know a good orthopedist?” I answered, “No, but I don’t think I need one.”

I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I believed that it involved soft tissue. I was hoping that the leg would right itself and that all was well.

Because I had no pain and movement seemed okay, I chose to ignore the not so subtle sign my body gave me – something was not right. For the next few days I stuck to my routine. I taught classes, trained clients and walked my dog. I even rode my bike to a Nationals game. My leg felt tight which I attributed to the uphill ride back home. I was wrong.

The next day I was on the floor in my living room going though books on a bottom shelf. When I tried to get up I couldn’t stand on my leg. I couldn’t put any weight on it. It was frozen in a bent position and when I tried to straighten it, the muscle felt as if it would snap. I crawled up my stairs to my bed where I stayed for three days until the leg finally relaxed enough for me to be able to limp.

Because the injury occurred on Labor Day weekend, no medical offices were open. I had time to think about what course of treatment I would choose. I had options. I mentally went through the list: an MD? Drugs? An MRI? Acupuncture? Massage? Reflexology? Chiropractic? My thinking was, “Try the least invasive first with the highest probability of healing the fastest.” I followed my gut and chose Active Release Technique (ART) treatment given by Chiropractor Martin Skopp. ART is a hands-on treatment method to address problems in the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, ligaments, fascia and nerves.

To my surprise, Dr. Skopp felt a tear in my hamstring during my first treatment. He taped the muscle. I couldn’t stretch, run or ride a bike. His instructions: rest, use heat and relax.

For the next six weeks I walked slowly with a slight limp. I shortened my dog walks and talked through my yoga, Pilates and Barre classes. I also learned a lot about myself. I didn’t realize that I rarely relaxed or rested. Most of my social activities involved walking somewhere, riding my bike or doing some physical activity. I dusted off the unread mysteries on my shelf and took to reading. I went to movies and watched DVDs. I learned how to do nothing and be okay with that. I healed quickly. Friends told me their hamstring tears took at least three to six months to mend; my healing took just a few weeks.

When the tear was healed and I no longer needed ART, my treatment was not over. Because of the limp, my body was misaligned. I resumed my reflexology and massage treatments and have begun to strengthen the leg muscles while keeping them flexible. Prevention is the best way to stay injury-free. I am determined that this hamstring tear was my last.

Pattie Cinelli is a health/fitness writer and personal trainer who has been in the fitness business for more than 25 years. Contact her at: fitness@pattiecinelli.com.