I still haven’t started training for my marathon, and I’m now a week and a half behind schedule and the clock is ticking. My problem is that I’m experiencing quite a bit of pain in my left leg, but I’m not sure if it’s a pulled or strained hamstring muscle, or a pinched or irritated sciatic nerve. I’ve been doing the research online and talking with a physical therapist and evidently the two are commonly confused and with me that makes three.
Your hamstring, of course, is the big muscle on the back of your leg (actually there is more than one hamstring muscle, but let’s not get technical). It lifts your leg up when you take a step. I believe I strained mine by doing some unexpected sprinting, which means I was hastily moving my leg forward and upwards and overworked the hamstring muscle beyond what it was used to.
The sciatic nerve runs from your spine down through your behind, your hamstring, past your knee, into your calf, and then your foot. It’s a big nerve, about as big around as your finger, apparently.
Sometimes your sciatic nerve can become irritated if you have disc problems in your back, and apparently if you overwork your hamstring, since the nerve goes through it. Although I’m not sure, I believe I injured my hamstring which led to irritation of my sciatic nerve. But there are a few reasons why I’m confused.
First, supposedly you can detect a sciatic nerve injury by laying on your back and having someone else lift your leg up straight until you feel the stretch, and then they bend your toe towards you. This is supposed to cause excruciating pain if you have a sciatic nerve injury. But my wife did this with me last night and it didn’t hurt at all. Not one bit. In fact, my leg felt quite a bit better after this.
So is it a hamstring injury? Well, hamstring injuries aren’t supposed to cause pain anywhere but from your behind down into the back of your leg, but I’m having pain on the outside of my knee, in my calf, and even going towards my foot.
These are just some of my symptoms. In reading through all the symptoms of hamstring injuries and sciatic nerve injuries it seems I have some symptoms of each, but I appear to not have some of the most basic symptoms of each.
So what am I doing for treatment? Nothing, mostly. That is, I’m sitting around and resting, sitting on a heat pad, and trying not to do anything that makes my leg hurt. But I seem to keep hurting it anyway. I haven’t been swimming for a few months, but my parents have a membership at the gym and we’re visiting them for Christmas so I decided to go with them, since I’m going crazy not being able to do anything and figured swimming should be safe. How wrong I was. Even though I only kick as much as I need to in order to keep my legs from dragging in the water, that was enough to aggravate my leg pain to the point where yesterday ended up being my worst day so far. The night before I had jogged 50 feet or so and felt ok, and was thus planning on going for a run later in the day, but after swimming I tried to run and on the first step I felt like I was tearing something and had to immediately stop, after which point it was difficult to even walk without pain.
The pain is only triggered by movement. It doesn’t ache or anything, it’s a sharp, shooting pain that’s triggered when I move in certain ways, which includes most ways I can move. There are few movements I can make that don’t hurt, and I haven’t memorized them yet, so I’m commonly in pain if I’m moving at all.
I’m hoping that within a day or two I’ll have recovered enough from swimming that I can go for a short jog, which doesn’t appear to aggravate the injury. I’m hoping that the blood flow from that will aid the healing that that I’ll soon be able to get fully involved in my training. But if this goes on for a few more weeks, I’m thinking I’ll probably need to cancel my plans to run in this marathon and hope for a later one.
I’m going to try the tennis ball massage technique today. That is, sitting on a tennis ball and rolling around on it to give myself a deep tissue massage.