As the month of January fades into February I am left with a renewed confidence and positive outlook towards 2011’s training and fast-approaching race season. I am very grateful for this because December’s exit left me somewhat remiss towards this year’s training cycle, in part to my what-had-become chronic hamstring syndrome issue. The short and good news is I’ve run every single day during January and with each passing day I feel steadily stronger, tighter, lighter and more fit as a runner. It is a familiar feeling and most welcomed.
I’ve worked my ass off to get the best of my hamstring issue and now, thanks to positive results during and after this week’s first tempo running in ages, it seems I finally have. And how exactly did I work my ass off, you might ask, to get the best of a chronic situation? Well, for starters, think stretching. Proper stretching. Loads and loads of stretching. Twice a day. Then toss in a little ice, a little heat. Acupuncture- that also a few times. Massage- meat grinding massage. Some yoga. An experimental visit to a manual ‘muscle manipulator’. Then a brief and effective dose of prescription anti-inflammatory after an ortho-pod check in to make sure there was nothing serious to worry about, such as a stress fracture. I followed up all of this with more massage, and more and more stretching. Finally, this week I experienced what I believe is (and will be) the final icing: Dry Needling. Scratching your head as to what is dry needling? Keep reading…
Dry needling is somewhat like acupuncture in that the practitioner, in my case a physical therapist, uses an acupuncture needle (which is extremely small, sharp and long if you’ve never seen one) and with the needle punctures the skin. That is about where the similarity ends. Acupuncture, in a nutshell, is the practice of still placing needles at specific locations following body meridian lines with the purpose of stimulating Qi- the body’s natural energy flow- to promote healing and other good things. Dry needling on the other hand is the practice of “fishing” a needle within myofascial trigger points of sore muscles to draw a response. The correct response from a sore muscle is a twitch, gyration or movement of some sort. Basically, the movement response is the muscle un-tightening at the trigger point(s) and release of tension. It is the craziest damn feeling I have ever encountered in my long history of seeking natural, efficient, proven methods for treating running injuries (muscle tension, mostly). Not only that, it works.
During my first and only session on Tuesday my hip muscles jerked, my hamstring wiggled and my butt cheek jiggled. Since then I am more flexible at the hip and have next to zero sciatic symptoms down my hamstring. It was a momentary event, mildly painful, totally natural and a non-scarring. Oddly enough as recent as two weeks ago I had never even heard of dry needling. Now I am not only informed but a believer. I still have two, possibly three, more sessions likely to go, once per week, and am convinced this is my ticket to 100% hamstring syndrome recovery. Plus more stretching, of course, especially at the hip.
Thanks to working my recovery ass off, and now the discovery of dry needling, January training resulted in solid base layering after all with the outlook of generous portions yet to come.