For over 11 years, i've put in around 60+ miles per week and have raced
quite a bit. I take some down time at the end of every year to give the body
a break. I also swim and regularly bike commute. I've had various running
aches and pains but have never had an injury that's stuck around after a
couple of easy days or days off. Till now...
At the beginning of sept, i went on a 3-day backpacking trip, came back sore
(from off trail downclimbing) on a monday and didn't run much the rest of
the week. The following sat, i ran a 4m xcountry race in xcountry shoes and
the next day both hamstrings were very tired and sore making my usual 15
miler uncomfortable. But the left one was worse. Thinking it was i was just
tired and it would just go away, i did not change my training for an
upcoming marathon and continued to do some 2-a-day runs including 1-2 mile
repeats. The pain in the left ham (mostly at the top insertion point but
extending down towards the knee) increased over the month till i finally
decided to forget the marathon or any serious training at all. I took a week
off and increased my swimming and biking and began lifting. After a week, i
started running every other day (around 5 miles) and have been on this
pattern since. When i begin a run I feel some pulling in my left hip but
it's not that painful, as the run progresses, my left ham gets more and more
sore. I ice when i'm done. I stretch quite a bit and most of my muscles are
faily limber. I can almost do the splits on both sides and have no problem
touching my hands to the floor without bending my knees (though i can really
feel a pull in the ham doing the latter). Anti inflamms work great but when
i stop taking them, the pain just comes back.
My doctor diagnosed it as sciatic nerve inflammation which kind of makes
sense given that the pain is under my butt and extends down the hamstring
and my car seat seems to aggrevate it. However, i'm not sure whether this
is the case since this seems to have started from what felt like a hamstring
strain. Can hamstring injuires *cause* sciatic nerve injuries or could the
pain i was feeling even after that race have been the sciatic nerve? Can
tightness in one hamstring or inflammation in one sciatic nerve cause the
opposite side to compensate thus the tightness in my right hamstring? Based
on anything i've written, is there anything else you could suggest to ask my
It is not uncommon for a hamstring injury to be confused with a back injury and vis-versa. Actually, that you have pain in the hamstring as the first symptom is not unusual at all. In fact, because back pain is referred, people often confuse their "strained hamstring" as a leg injury whereas in fact it is a bulging disc pressing on the nerve that refers pain into the posterior leg causing the muscle to tighten up and feel strained.
As far as treating it is concerned, you need to explore a mechanical diagnosis of your lower back to rule it out as a source of dysfunction. Based on your history, I would be surprised if the pain derived from you hamstring, although you do raise an interesting twist with respect to the bilateral nature of the symptom. It is rare to strain a hamstring, and very unusual to strain both at the same time. A central disc bulge on the other hand, could cause both to feel tight.
So see if you can get in touch with a clinician who can perform a more complete mechanical evaluation. I suggest a Physiatrist (an MD with a physical medicine specialty), also known as PM & R.