I am not a smart person. I like to think that I am, but I usually prove myself wrong. Take last Wednesday’s jazz class for example.
We were doing our usual warm-up routine which includes some stretches at the end. The pancake stretch is one of those. I’m sure you’ve done it before: You sit with your legs wide, knees straight and pointing upward and then you pike forward. It is a lovely hamstring stretch and one of the preparatory stretches for the side splits.
I used to cheat on the pancake stretch. I’d slump forward onto the floor by flexing my back, which doesn’t really do much for the hamstrings and risks compromising lower back stability, but it does look super-flexible to the untrained eye. Having recently discovered the effectivenes of a proper pancake stretch in my stretching class, I decided to correct my mistake. I was going to pike forward at the hips, good and proper. Oh boy, was I going to pike forward! Yeah!
This may have been a good idea after class, when I was fully and completely warm. It wasn’t a good idea at that particular moment.
Long story short, I pulled my hamstring. With the help of my book on sports anatomy and the mighty power of the internet I have concluded I have a Grade 1 strain of what is most likely the origin of long head of the biceps femoris. Like the other two muscles that make up the hamstring, it attaches on the ischial tuberosity, which is exactly the part of the pelvis that you sit on. (So the only diagnosis I am actually qualified to make is «My butt hurts».)
I did notice the strain immediately but it behaved itself unless I tried the pancake stretch again. Ballet on Thursday went fine, I was even able to stretch afterwards, stopping when the injured muscle protested. I skipped any further exercising on the week-end and cheerfully headed off to modern and stretching on Monday.
It wasn’t great. The site of injury had become fairly stiff and tight and I couldn’t do some of the stretches properly. Jay was very knowledgeable, showing me how to avoid putting strain on the injured muscle while still stretching and strengthening others. I was quite happy about that until she casually mentioned she’s had that same injury herself for four months now.
I had heard of slow-healing hamstrings before, so I decided to look it up. Most common medical sites say «two weeks». Most sports-related sites say «healing time can vary, the rate of reinjury is high». All dancing sites say «OMG it takes forevah, better get used to it». Which kinda sucks.
That said, I did find some detailed rehab programs with stretching and strengthening exercises which are supposed to promote proper healing of the muscle and prevent reinjury. It it gets worse or fails to get better, I can always try to pester my doctor to prescribe me a course of physiotherapy. It got noticeably worse after Monday’s classes and now hurts when I sit on it. I’ll stick to mild stretches for this week and try to really hold back in stretching class until it’s hopefully gone away forever. Apparently, I misjudged just how much I should (not) stretch.
For now, it’s Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – or more like Boring office work, Unusually cold weather, Sitting on it counts and This acronym wasn’t created with butt injuries in mind, was it. I’m also trying to get enough sleep, which is a challenge, since I’m easily distracted.
Case in point, I found this interesting study which compared (not exactly representative numbers of) dancers and sprinters with hamstring injuries and found that all sprinters got it from sprinting and all dancers from stretching. The sprinters’ injuries were located lower down the leg and were more severe than the dancers’. The dancers, however, took much, much longer to recover, taking over a year in some cases!
While this is all terribly interesting, they only studied professionals, so this says exactly nothing about my situation. That said, I feel very validated to have the same type of dance-related injury as the pros. I just hope it goes away a bit faster. Still, the splits may be coming less soon than I bragged about.
Have you ever had trouble with your hamstrings? How did you beat it?