So after almost 11 months since my hamstring injury while training for my first half marathon back in February 2015, I have exhausted all protocols and procedures my primary care doctor can do. I was referred to a specialist and requested an MRI. MRI results came back negative – I have ‘textbook perfect’ hamstrings. Yet I was/am still having pain. Over the course of the year, after months of physical therapy, a few rounds of Trigger Point Needling, rest, swimming in an effort to strengthen the leg and rebuild my cardio strength,the pain had moved from the belly of the hamstring to the lower part of the muscle, closer to the back of my knee. Most days I don’t have any pain at all – but there are those other days….
The next step the specialist recommended is a newer therapy, Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP). Insurance companies don’t feel that there is enough research for this therapy yet so anyone who decides to have this procedure performed has to pay out of pocket.
So what is PRP and why do we think this therapy will work? In an effort to regenerate and heal the muscle cells in my hamstring (something my own body should have done in the beginning), my own blood was centrifuged and the platelets/plasma separated. Platelets have growth proteins (not the thyroid kind) that aid in/speed up the healing of damaged cells. After an ultrasound on my injury, the doctor found an area of muscle she ‘didn’t like the looks of’ (it was darker in color than a ‘normal’ muscle on an ultrasound) and injected the plasma into the muscle. You can read more about the procedure here.
It was VERY painful. I was given an anxiety reducer/muscle relaxer an hour before the procedure (which didn’t seem to really kick in until after all was said and done). I had a topical anesthetic to ease the pinch of the needle… and that was it. My husband was there holding my hand, supporting me, encouraging me, rubbing my back, reminding me to breathe. I had a cloth between my teeth to bite and a pillow under my chest for support/to clench with my other hand.
The doctor pushed in two doses of the plasma, in close proximity to each other. I had to have the doctor pause halfway through as I became really nauseous. I was told I would feel slight pressure as the plasma was injected; it felt as though an air bubble was expanding just under my skin. I cried and growled and may have even screamed.
After, my husband helped me put by sweatpants and slippers back on. It felt like an eternity trying to roll from my belly to my back then to sitting up. I was given juice to calm my upset stomach. I remember telling A that I felt really sleepy (yay for those drugs FINALLY kicking in). I barely remember the car ride home and I slept for a couple of hours when I got home.
I took Wednesday, Thursday and Friday off work. I am thankful to say that I did not really have to use any of the pain medication I was prescribed.
With all this comes some restrictions to help aid in the healing process. For the six-twelve week healing period I am to avoid heat, ice, and any medication that includes anti-inflammatory properties – like aspirin. I may swim lightly but I have yet to go back to swimming. For the first two weeks I have a lifting restriction of >15 lbs and a walking restriction of >1/2 mile. Weeks 3 & 4 increase to >1 mile and >20 lbs. Weeks 5 & 6 drop the weight restriction, increase walking to 1.5 miles and give me liberty to begin a combination of physical therapy and massage therapy.
In all honesty, this sucks. I started back at work and have not been able to upkeep the walking restriction. On Tuesday I barely made it through the day (walked over 2.2 miles) and by midday today my leg was pulsating and I began to feel the first real pain since the procedure itself. So I left early. And I took tomorrow off. And depending on how I feel/do tomorrow, I may even not come in on Friday.
My boss has been so understanding with all this. She has put me in a newborn room to accommodate my restrictions and when that didn’t work she was able to find paper work for me to do/allow me to help some of the rooms do things in their rooms that will enable them to be ready for inspection. I spent all five hours doing that today and it was too much. A. suggested that I take today off but I am stubborn and went in anyway. I should have listened to him.
It is in times like this when I wish I had a sit down desk job. I wish I had a ton of sick leave to use up. I don’t. I don’t have either. I am nervous about missing work because my student loan payments will not wait. Yet at the same time, I must do what I need to do to heal. I NEED to heal; I’ve spent too much time trying different things in an effort to heal. I NEED to follow these guidelines as close as I am able; I want this to work the first time and not have to have another procedure done.