I know – hard to believe but 1 year ago today I had hamstring surgery to repair my partially torn (and very scar tissue laden) right hamstring.
Although from the outside it might look like recovery has occurred without any blips – that was not the case. Recovery from hamstring surgery has been filled with highs and lows, with some days being much, much better than others. What I kept telling myself was that I just needed to stick to the plan (I love a good plan). After a couple of weeks I started stringing more good than bad days together and that kept my outlook upbeat.
My surgeon was very conservative and I did not even lace up my sneakers until Feb 2021. I tried to “beat” the time line but my surgeon held fast. I was lucky to be allowed to crutch around the neighborhood (what a workout) and finally start biking in December.
My first run I felt (and probably looked) like a Pheobe on Friends.
Return to Running (Thus Far)
Coach James took my “Return to Running” very conservatively. All of my first runs were intervals of more walking than running. I still felt at the end of those runs like I ran a marathon.
I got stronger, my runs got longer, and a bit by bit I have built my mileage back 40-45 miles a week. I do understand the significance of this and look back on the last 8ish months at where I was and where I am now.
Do I want to be faster – hell yes!!! But during a run last weekend I realized I need to give myself grace. I’ve come far and at this point I am exactly where I need to be in my running journey.
So – when I line up to run the Hartford Half Marathon next weekend – it won’t be a PR BUT it will be a PR of where I was last year and that was NOT running.
One of the things that’s been great over the past year is how many other people in similar situations have reached out to me. They wanted to thank me for my post hamstring surgery posts because (as I found out) there is not a lot of information on the interwebs. I did learn a lot from several Facebook Groups which got very dark as I was trying to recover. I ended up having to distance myself from them because it turned out that the majority of the posts were from individuals whose surgery did not go well.
So I wanted to end this post with an update on 10 things I learned while recovering from hamstring surgery. Hopefully some of these tips will help you on your recovery journey.
10 Things I Have Learned While Recovering From Hamstring Surgery (1 Year Later)
Recovery is not a straight line – be prepared to have bad days.
Bad days does not mean the surgery “did not work”. It just means you need to take it easy or scale back what you are doing.
Listen to your doctor – don’t try to beat the recovery time line.
There will be days 3,6,9 and even at 12 months where you are sore. Don’ freak out! Continue to stretch and back of of activity if you need to.
When you are cleared for exercises – DON”T try to do all the things. You will regret it the next day.
Invest in a good ice pack that you can sit on or wrap around your leg. I love this one.
When you are discharged from PT – CONTINUE TO DO THE BORING EXERCISES. There is a reason why you got stronger so don’t let these fall by the wayside.
When you start being active again – give yourself grace. You have been immobile and/or inactive for some period of time. Regardless of how fit you “were” – you need to get strong again.
Do not compare yourself to our “prior surgical self”. Remember this is major surgery and you (whether you like it or not) have changed – again give yourself grace.
And Finally – remember how far you have come and that every day (with everything you do) you are getting just a bit stronger!!!
As you are reading this I am officially 30 days post-op. After my hip labrum repair, after 30 days I was told by my surgeon that I could cease using crutches and was able to start a course of PT where I not only worked on not only ROM but strengthening my hip.
Recovery from Proximal Hamstring Surgery is a bit different. As I cross this 30 day mark I am still living the #crutchlife. On the positive side – I do not have to wear my brace at home and have started to sit in a regular chair and therefore transitioning back to the work bunker. On the negative side – I still have to wear the hip brace at night with a bent knee and dealt with swollen legs from the lack of movement.
With the exception of doctor appointments and an exciting trip to CVS and Starbucks this past weekend, I pretty much have been sequestered to the house. Mark still is the lifeblood of the household, a true Rockstar. I don’t know how recovery would be going if I had to do this alone or with an un-supportive spouse. Mark’s been able to work from home, but has transitioned back to 1/2 days in the office.
This past Friday was the first day that I was actually home alone for the ENTIRE DAY. He did leave me breakfast but it was up to me to make lunch. I did a pretty good job if I do say so myself. Nothing fancy and it was easy enough to crutch my way back to the work bunker.
BUT it’s all about baby steps forward. It’s a sprint not a marathon, and I keep telling my self each morning when I wake up that I’m one day farther from my surgery and one day further in my recovery journey.
What’s Next On the Recovery Agenda
BUT -excitement abounds in the Ciccio household this week, however, as I get to start Physical Therapy on Monday! This means not only getting out of the house, but my surgeon wants my therapist to start weaning me off my crutches and brace! Unfortunately it does not mean strengthening until at least 8 weeks post-op. In all the reading I have done prior to my surgery, this is the standard protocol.
And in all honestly – I really need to work on just moving and massaging my right leg. My right leg has atrophied so any attempts at strengthening my hamstring would not be helpful.
To be honest I am excited and a bit nervous to start weaning off crutches at this point. I mean, I have not put any pressure on it in 30 days, so I know I am going to be pretty cautious for a while. As Mark said -I am going to have to re-learn to walk comfortably and will probably be tired as I start this new phase in my recovery.
BUT – I have followed my doctor’s instructions up until this point so now it’s time to start engaging those hamstring muscles and continue moving (literally) forward!
12 Things I Have Learned Thus Far
You will have to learn to rely on other people. This was (and still is) so hard for me. Your recovery depends a large part on not moving so that you can heal. Having a support system in place before surgery is imperative.
Remember recovery from hamstring surgery is long – it’s a marathon and not a sprint. DO NOT OVERDO IT! I cannot express this enough because remember – anything “extra” that “feels” good now MIGHT set you back more than you realize.
You won’t be hungry for the first couple of days BUT it’s important. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way after my last surgery, so Mark made sure I had food at all times.
Try and wean yourself off the narcotics as soon as you are able. Yes- you will be in pain/sore but I found that after the first couple of days I was able to wean myself off them, taking Tylenol as necessary. One caveat – if you are in pain – take the pain medication, that’s what it’s there fore but don’t use it as a crutch. You just had major surgery and it’s going to hurt!
There is no getting around it but sleeping will be uncomfortable. You just have to get used to it and learn to “love” sleeping on your back. I am a stomach sleeper so it has been quite a turn of events. Luckily I have eventually been able to lay on my side (with the brace still on) as long as I keep a pillow between my legs.
If you can – a hand held grabber is a game-changer. This really helped me because until you master the one-legged crane squat, picking up things you drop is hard.
Even with a brace, I highly recommend putting one or two pillows under your knee. This will ensure that it stays bent (thereby keeping your hamstring relaxed at all times) and helps with swelling.
Showering is a challenge – a hand held shower head was helpful as sitting was hard.
Related – showering everyday is probably not feasible because it takes a lot of effort and a lot of time. Invest in shower wipes (see below).
I’m not going to lie but using the toilet is also hard. I did start out using a raised toilet seat. This works for some, but for me it presented more problems. I learned through trial and error to “hover” and was eventually able to sit (not comfortably) “deadlegged” on the toilet.
Recovering from hamstring surgery will make you tired – naps are your friend!
And lastly – make sure you have some good books and movies to help you pass the time.
My Top 5 Post-Op Essentials
Extra Wide Adjustable Laptop Stand – I was lucky to be able to take 2 weeks off after my surgery. Unfortunately, when I returned to work, I was still unable to sit in a chair. This “desk” was a lifesaver!
Comfy Stretch Pants – Face it, you’re going to be lounging for the foreseeable future after surgery. They are stylish, stretchy enough to pull on and off (carefully) yourself, and will fit under the bulky brace. What more can you ask for.
Body Wipes – As mentioned above, it will initially be challenging to shower after hamstring surgery. These were great to help me feel (and be) fresh day in and day out.
Crutch Pads – Another little thing to make your life easier. You are going using crutches for a while, so why not make what limited mobility you have a bit easier.
An Elevated Toilet Seat – Although this did not work for me, I have seen many others rave about this product. If you can find out that fits to your toilet it can be a game changer.
In August I scheduled my surgery to repair my hamstring injury. I chose a date toward the end of September because 1) Mark had a pre-arranged golf trip in early September and 2) I wanted to enjoy as much time as I could outside before I was sequestered to my “recovery room”.
Being the Type A (and also wanting to be active in my recovery as much as I could be), I did a lot of internet searching on what to expect before, during and after hamstring surgery. I found a lot of good (but generic) information from the medical community (hospitals/orthopedics/surgical centers), I had a hard time finding any personal experiences on anyone who had recovered from proximal hamstring surgery.
I was lucky two have found two blogs which were a huge resource for me as the date of my surgery drew closer. Fueled and Focused, as well as this guide really helped me not only wrap my head around not only what to expect but also gave rough idea of how long it would be until I might be able to do X, Y or Z. I re-read blogs quite a lot and I have to say, up until this point, my recovery has been pretty similar.
Had my surgery not been scheduled during a Pandemic I would have spent my last week/weekend with friends and family BUT that was not the case. Instead, I had my brace fitting AND a COVID test. Then it was back home to self quarantine. Thankfully the test was negative or I would have been pissed.
I spent the weekend before deep cleaning the house, baking these, and making sure I had everything in my Recovery Room ready to go. I also purchased several items to make my post op life easier. Some of them were awesome (crutch pads for the win) and some were just a good idea in theory (tear away pants anyone??). I will write a separate post on these items soon.
I was fortunate that I was Dr. Kuhn’s first surgery for the day BUT was not pleased that it would take place at 11:30am. SIGH! So that morning I did some puttering around the house until it was time to go.
In pre-COVID times, Mark would have been able to come into the surgery center and wait for me. Unfortunately, that was not the case. He dropped me off and was told that once I was “ready to go” (aka surgery was complete) he could swing back and collect me.
Pre-Op was pretty straight forward and what I remembered from my labrum repair 3 years ago. The only difference was more masks and hand washing. After I scrubbed my surgical area and they started an IV, things happened pretty fast.
Funny side story – when Mark dropped me off he asked of the brace box needed to come with me. I told him – no – what remained were “extra pieces”. Apparently I was wrong. The actual brace was actually in the box and Mark ended up taking it back home with him. After a mini melt down, I got a hold of Mark who rushed it back to the surgery center. In the meantime I walked down to the surgery room, where the last thing I remember is talking to the “team” about running.
Unlike my prior surgery, I did not have nerve block because of where the surgery was located (hello nerves) but they numbed it up good. The anesthesiologist also placed an anti-nausea patch behind my ear. The medication in it lasted 3 days and worked wonders. After my last surgery I had an adverse reaction, but luckily that was not the case this go around.
I woke up less then an hour later with the brace firmly attached and a slight cough/sore throat because I was intubated. Something about not eating for 14 hours made those post-op graham crackers and ginger ale delicious. Pretty soon, Mark picked me up, grabbed my prescriptions and a well-deserved Poke bowl and headed home.
I’m not sure how I did it but I made it upstairs where I have pretty much stayed thus far.
Hamstring Post Op – The 1st Two Weeks
For these first 2 weeks I have used my vacation time to take some time off. The first week I was in no condition to do anything, but last week I did do some work. I am glad I did – it will definitely keep my stress level in check. Mid day power naps have been glorious, especially as my sleep pattern has been inconsistent.
By the end of the first weekend, I weaned myself off the Oxycontin and now only take Tylenol as needed. I have had mostly soreness and discomfort at the incision area. I am not moving a lot (the brace definitely helps with that) and am very conscious of keeping my knee bent AT ALL TIMES. The one time that I did contract my hamstring (by accident) it hurt like hell.
The brace is defiantly doing it’s job of immobilizing me and needless to say it is cumbersome and uncomfortable. I cannot sit up straight in bed and sleeping has been a challenge as my knee has to remain bent. I am a huge stomach sleeper so its been a challenge to sleep on my back. The only times that I have felt comfortable taking it off is when I use my ice machine. My knee however is still in a bent position.
As for going to the bathroom – this might be a little TMI but the first week was a struggle. I was (and still am) numb in that area and could not (and honestly still cannot) sit on the toilet. I did try a raised toilet seat (FAIL) but at the end of the day just had to hover. It was only recently that I have been able to sit (with my right side being dead weight) somewhat. It’s also a pain because every time I go to the bathroom I have to take off the brace and then put it back on. Needless to say I am almost a pro at the one-legged Karate Kid crane.
The memory foam pads (linked above) for my crutches have been life savers as I think that I am going to be using them for the next 6 weeks.
As I mentioned I have pretty much stayed in the Recovery Room since my hamstring surgery. I kind of feel like Rapunzel. Luckily I can get in/out of the bed, maneuver to the bathroom when I want/need to, and should “make it work” working remotely. I cannot sit up (or in a chair for that matter) so it will be trial and error to get my Recovery Room turned into a comfortable work space.
Lastly – being pretty much immobile also means that I am highly (like 99.9% reliant) on Mark. He has been awesome, bringing me my meals as well as taking care of the house, working, and making sure Harley does not starve. It’s a big ask of him to do all this and he has (so far) had no complaints. I will keep you posted 😉
Tuesday – First Post Op Appointment
I’m pretty excited for Tuesday for two reasons. 1) I get to leave the house and go outside for the first time in 2 weeks! and 2) I have my first post op appointment!!!
To be honest I am not sure what to expect. I know that there might not be much that will change BUT I am hoping to maybe be able to start Physical Therapy (for stretching) and maybe he will change the position of my brace to give me a bit more “wiggle room” for sitting.
I’m a 44year redheaded runner- living and working in Central Connecticut with my long time loving husband (and sometimes running czar) Mark and our dog Harley.
I have always enjoyed sports but it wasn't until 11 years ago that I decided to "take up" running. Since then, running has allowed me to have some awesome adventures as well as meet some pretty cool people.
Along with running, I am also passionate about food and drink, considering myself a bit of an amateur food geek.
So I decided to start my blog to combine both of these passions by documenting my journey to balance the two - one step at a time.
So thanks for stopping by and as always - Keep Calm. Eat Well. Run Strong.