I could literally kick myself; well perhaps not as kicking caused the issue in the first place but you get my point. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about I’ll start at the beginning. Back in December 2016 I got a new exercise programme that focussed on martial arts inspired circuits. Put simply lots of kicking and jumping. In addition to undertaking this circuit training I also continued to run and train for longer distances than I had been doing. Here is where I went wrong; not giving my muscles a break between high intensity training and going for a run instead.
Around two months ago I noticed that my left thigh was twinging when I did certain things. Namely when I supported my weight on the left leg going up the stairs, when kicking with the right leg and when performing push kicks with the left leg. Primarily my Rectus Femoris muscle (kicking muscle as it is also known) was not happy. This muscle is one of the Quadriceps and responsible for extending the knee and flexing the hip. It is a big muscle and in my case it would appear that it was unhappy about being used to its full capacity. Due to these odd twinges I did remove the activities that were causing them and assumed that I had Strained the muscle; which is in part right however overuse syndrome is much more complex and the problem was more extensive than I had realised.
What is an overuse injury you may wonder. My first response is to this is a complete nightmare but in technical terms it occurs when the micro-traumas that occur naturally during high intensity exercise or work aren’t given enough time to heal. Micro-traumas are tiny tears to muscle fibres and perfectly natural but when rest is not provided these become more extensive. When this happens scar tissue has to get involved to patch up the area. Scar tissue is inflexible and as a result its presence in the muscle causes a road block; which causes dysfunction and pain and discomfort to the muscle affected. Surrounding muscles will also be put under more pressure to compensate for the poor function of the affected muscle. In my case the rest of the Quadriceps and Adductor muscles.
The road to recovery is a long and arduous one but necessary if the muscle is to regain a good degree of functionality. I’ll admit that resting the muscle was not easy for me as I have never been one to take it easy and generally have to be bed bound before I have a day off sick. However knowing that it is a vital part of the rehabilitation process meant that I admitted defeat and have taken things easy. On the plus side walking and gentle running have been possible with strict rules to keep my muscle happy and healthy. Actions that cause explosive contractions have had to be avoided as it was this type of contraction that had placed too much pressure on the Rectus Femoris. Kicking, jumping and burpee’s were out for the time being.
Warm ups and cool downs have been essential. No more ‘I’ll just walk for 30 seconds then run’, instead stretching and warming up the muscles with a wheat bag has been introduced before a gentle run. Distances have been reduced and training for the half marathon has been temporarily put on hold. Following any exercise comes more stretching and then my least favourite part – ice! Annoyingly ice does help significantly reduce any swelling in the muscles and assists with the healing of micro-trauma.
The foam roller has also become a daily addition to my routine. Thankfully this is less painful now that the muscles are feeling better and recovering.
Regular massage has been put into place. Sadly many of us massage therapists neglect to get ourselves treated; I won’t be making this mistake anymore. Not only does massage relieve tension and discomfort from the muscles but it improves muscle function, stretches restricted muscle fibres and significantly reduces the impact of overuse. While it isn’t a painless treatment at the time my muscles feel so much better afterwards.
In order to provide further support to the muscles I have also used kinesiology tape. While this shouldn’t be used as means to carry on regardless of muscular injury; it can significantly support recovery and allow the muscle to be used sensibly. In the early stages I would have this tape on for several days and then moved on to applying it only when the muscle would be used during exercise or work.
Now that my muscles are on their way to recovery I can begin the next phase of rehabilitation. Regaining full mobility and strength is the next goal and will be discussed in my next instalment. For now I am going off to stretch and foam roll my muscles.