Dr. Google councils many of us when we experience odd symptoms or an injury, especially when searching for natural alternatives. Most of us like to explore what others have experienced. Well, I’ll tell you there is little out there about how to naturally heal a hamstring avulsion. This inspired me to write a blog to provide some support to others in my situation. Obviously, seek a professional opinion first!
Shoot, whether it’s hamstring related or not, you’ll learn how these healing remedies support tissue repair for other injuries or conditions. Of course, I’m NOT offering medical advice! But, perhaps this resource can guide you and your provider to create a plan together!
In early May 2018, I was roller skating with a friend when a little rock got caught in my skate and took me down. Hard. You can get the whole story here but to brief you, my legs went into forward splits position and I felt a “pop” in my front hamstring. Holy pain! A few days later, my injury was confirmed. I had a hamstring avulsion. An avulsion typically occurs after a sudden stretch or muscle overload. This leads to the muscle tendon tearing away from the bone. Yes, it’s as painful as it sounds. In my case, I tore two of the three hamstring muscles away from the pelvic bone.
While most hamstring injuries can be, and are, treated with non-invasive procedures, a hamstring avulsion is typically treated with surgery and rehab (1). However, after consulting with various experts, I opted for more natural healing remedies. After years of research and major self-work to heal and improve my overall health (down to a gut and cellular level), I wanted to give my body the opportunity to heal naturally. After all, bodies want to repair and heal.
So, after getting a few professional opinions and exploring my options, I decided to move forward with healing remedies that utilize incredible technology to enhance the repair process even more. The doctor helping lead my treatment is orthopedic surgeon and longevity expert, Dr. Mark Legome, MD.
What to Expect Here
In this blog, I’ll lay out all the details of my plan and provide science to the healing remedies I’m doing. While the terminology can sometimes seem confusing and overwhelming, the basics are this; our bodies have mechanisms to heal and when we put it in the right environment and provide the right nutrients, it will do it’s thing.
The main objective of the healing remedies I’ll discuss are to enhance cellular and stem cell rejuvenation so the hamstring muscle tissue can reattach without surgery. Before we delve in. Let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Cost. Unfortunately, insurance covers none of these healing remedies. While that’s frustrating and disappointing, in order to make a movement, we have to speak up. I’m choosing to use my voice and my dollars to help push this movement forward. Alright, onto to the good stuff.
Images Post Injury
I had no visible bruising for the first week after the injury. Meaning, the trauma was pretty deep inside the tissues. However, my upper thigh swelled almost immediately. That leg remained approximately 3 inches bigger than my right thigh for almost 2 weeks.
The photo on the far left shows bruising at the 10 day mark (very little bruising). With each passing day, the bruising became more apparent. The far right photo makes it look like my whole leg was injured (and honestly this one was taken in poor light) but you can see how the blood looks like it traveled down the leg. The blood eventually works moves down the thigh and even into my calf while the body tries to remove it. A few days after that last image, the bruising disappeared! The blood outside of veins and arteries can be very inflammatory and painful, which is one reason I included cupping, dry needing and acupuncture. These therapies increase microcirculation, which speeds up the process.
My Healing Remedies Outline
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT)
- One hour sessions 5 days per week.
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) & Bioidentical Testosterone
- Ten, very low-dose injections
- Infrared Sauna
- Four days per week
- Physical Therapy with acupuncture, dry needling and cupping
- 90 min session three days per week.
- Vibration Stimulation Massage Therapy
- Two times per week
- Intravenous Glutathione
- 1-2 times per week
- Nutrient Therapy/Supplementation
- I’m consistent with my supplementation including an active B complex, Magnesium Threonate and Amino Acids. This is specific to me, not necessarily universal.
- Real food diet, good sleep & mindfulness/meditation practice
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)
Of all the treatments I’m doing, HBOT is my top priority and the one with the biggest bang for your buck. Why? Because in my opinion, it’s the one with the biggest healing impact. And, it has a cumulative effect. Cumulative meaning regardless of how often you go, each session will build on the others. You won’t regress by taking a break and you don’t have to go daily to benefit.
HBOT is the use of high pressure oxygen to increase delivery of oxygen to your body’s fluids, cells and organs (1). Why is this important? Well, oxygen is essential to our body. Think about it. We can go days without water and weeks without food, but cut off our oxygen supply and we only have minutes to survive. When you’re in the pressurized HBOT chamber, you’re breathing 96-100% oxygen. To give you a comparison, the air we breath at sea level is 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen and 1% other gases (2).
Generally, only our red blood cells carry oxygen, but HBOT delivers oxygen into all the body’s fluids including plasma, central nervous system and lymph. When this occurs, dissolved oxygen is delivered throughout the body which increases new capillary growth, connective tissue growth and faster healing (1,3,4). Research has also shown HBOT reduces markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in both animal and human studies (5, 6).
After a major injury, increasing blood flow and tissue growth is key. That is essential when it comes to healing an injury or damaged tissues. A lot of the research on HBOT looked at it’s impact on ischemia-reperfusion (I/R), which refers to the tissue that’s damaged when the blood supply returns to tissues after a period of no or low oxygen (4). HBOT slows down the reperfusion injury (3,4,7).
Even More Benefits!
On a separate note, HBOT can also improve cognitive performance, attention, memory, word recall and reaction time (9-11). In fact, I used HBOT for part of my brain healing treatment after years of sleep deprivation (see images). This is a coveted neuro-therapy for brain repair which is exciting for supporting individuals with PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, migraines and chronic conditions like alzheimer’s disease. Many functional medicine doctors are beginning to use HBOT as an effective therapy despite the fact that the medical system remains skeptical and considers it experimental or “off-label.”
As you can see in the video below, the therapy is done in coffin or spaceship like device. For claustrophobics, it can take a few times to build up to a full session length. But most people do just fine. Treatments last 1- 2 hours, and depending on the type of chamber, some allow wifi and cell phones. You’re monitored from the outside and can communicate if needed. Some people feel pressure changes in their ears or sinuses but the staff will teach you how to smoothly adjust.
There are different types of chambers; hard and soft. The one in the video below is a hard chamber. The hard chamber is either in a bed style or a cockpit or tiny spaceship style where you can sit up. This type gets to the desired pressure and oxygen level. The small chamber, which looks like an inflatable bag, has a milder oxygen level and pressure. Just be aware of the difference between soft and hard chambers in terms of benefits.
Uses and Cost
FDA approved, HBOT can be covered by insurance for various conditions like carbon monoxide poisoning, arterial gas embolism, strokes, decompression sickness and a few others. Some conditions like lyme disease, migraines, sports injuries, traumatic brain injuries, autism and more (8) may or may not be covered by insurance. The cost will vary with each facility but you can expect to pay an average of $350 per session.
Human Growth Hormone and Bio-Identical Testosterone
Another component of my therapy includes ten rounds of low-dose human growth hormone (HGH) injections. HGH is a natural hormone our body makes and secretes through our pituitary gland (1). Now, hold on for a second, I’m going to share a little extra science here in hopes that you notice a few key words; (hint) cell regeneration and tissue growth.
For the Science Nerds
HGH acts on the liver which increases a growth promoting factor called IGF-1(insulin-like growth factor). HGH and IGF-1 push the body towards a anabolic (aka building) state and play important roles in cell regeneration and tissue growth in skeletal muscle and other organs like the brain (2-3). The body can also use a negative feedback mechanism in which case increased HGH (like when fasting) actually decreases IGF-1 (4-5). Research has shown benefits to periods of increasing HGH and IGF-1 from time-to-time but it’s not necessarily something we want elevated all the time.
There are actually a number of ways to increase HGH naturally. These include high intensity interval training exercise, sauna therapy and fasting (5-7). As you can imagine, immediately after an injury it’s difficult to do strenuous exercise, and fasting would have been an additional emotional and physical stressor to add right away, So, my doctor recommended low-dose and short-term HGH injections to increase muscle repair. To learn more about how to naturally increase HGH with fasting, check out the 131 Method.
Now, I am making things sound a little more simplistic than they actually are, so don’t just jump on the HGH injection train without professional support. In my case, the cell regeneration and tissue growth are very important for healing and getting my injured hamstring to reattach on its own.
More Cool Stuff….
In addition to HGH, I’m doing very low dose bioidentical testosterone. Bioidentical simply means the molecular structure is identical to the human-produced version. Testosterone is obviously formed in the body naturally in both males and females. The low-dose testosterone injections are to help stimulate tissue healing, muscle repair/growth and to reduce recovery time. To help my body metabolize the testosterone, I’m taking a supplement called DIM (Diindolylmethane) which is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower (8). The supplement is simply a concentrated dose. A lot of the research on DIM is around it’s anti-cancer properties but it’s also an aromatase inhibitor (9).
Infrared saunas are the queen bee to average saunas. The Infrared light penetrates the skin and works by raising the body’s core temperature, not just heating up the surface temperature like a dry sauna. Now, in terms of sweating, any heat therapy increases sweating. However, the infrared light offers additional benefits. There are three different types of infrared wavelengths that are used – far, mid, or near infrared. Far infrared reaches our deepest tissues, mid focuses on the soft tissue of the body, and near boosts mitochondria and cellular repair. Read more about the many benefits of sauna therapy here.
Why I Chose Sauna Therapy
One of the primary reasons I include infrared saunas into my treatment plan is to increase blood flow. The increase in core body temperature in an infrared allows blood vessels to dilate and improves blood flow to skeletal muscle and other tissues (1). By increasing blood flow to my hamstring muscle, I am enhancing nutrient delivery and oxygen transport directly to my muscles.
Infrared sauna treatments have also shown to be effective in reducing pain, stiffness, and fatigue (2-3). These direct beneficial effects are due to whole-body hyperthermia induced by the sauna (2). Hyperthermic conditioning is a fancy term for the changes that occur in our bodies when exposed to very hot conditions, like an infrared sauna. By repeated exposure to these high heat environments, we improve mechanisms in our body that help reduce the negative effects associated with higher core body temperatures (1).
For weeks after an injury like this, mobility and physical activity levels will be restricted. I’m nearly three weeks post-injury and I’m certainly not doing deep squats. To help the body in muscle regrowth, hyperthermic conditioning plays a beneficial role. To generate new muscle growth, protein synthesis (the making of new protein) must outweigh protein degradation (protein breakdown that occurs while we use muscles or do not use them at all). Hyperthermic conditioning reduces protein degradation, therefore, increasing net protein synthesis. Growth outweighs breakdown!
Hyperthermic conditioning from the sauna actually helps muscle regrowth in a few ways. Hyperthermic conditions cause our bodies to produce heat shock proteins (HSPs), stimulate growth hormone, and improve our insulin sensitivity (1). The production of HSPs have a few roles in our body, but most importantly correlate with more muscle regrowth. This persists for up to 48 hours after whole body hyperthermia. As you read above, growth hormone plays a role in cell regeneration and tissue growth in skeletal muscle. So, the sauna is an easy (and relaxing) way to boost natural production of growth hormone.
Personally, I go to Balance Point Therapy where my physical therapy, acupuncture, dry needling and cupping are all done. The physical therapy component is essential to any healing protocol, whether it’s natural or surgical. Partner up with a good PT!
Dry needling, also known as myofascial trigger point dry needling, or intramuscular stimulation, is a technique involving needling of muscle trigger points (1). A trigger point is the most sensitive spot in a taut band of muscles. Essentially, a dry needle is quickly poked through the skin and then a trained professional moves the needle until a local twitch response occurs.
Generally, about 45-60 seconds is spent on each trigger point until the local twitch response stops. This technique is different than acupuncture, though they both use a similar needle or filament. Dry needling is based on Western neuro-physiological principles and not Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Dry needling is used by many Physical Therapists to help relax overactive muscles, improve muscular pain and myofascial dysfunction. It’s not only done on muscles. Dry needling can also be done on ligaments, tendons, scar tissue and subcutaneous fascia.
There are different forms and techniques of dry needling, but for my therapy, I did a specific Integrative Dry Needling (IDN) technique done by Ray Roman, Physical Therapist and director of Balance Point Therapy. IDN is based on finding the trigger points that are symptomatic. IDN also incorporate some acupuncture practices (which is not typical of traditional dry needling techniques). The focus is to create homeostasis in local tissue and to put the body (and my leg) in a better state for self-healing.
Additionally, it’s increasing microcirculation of blood. Just like when you cut your finger, blood flow increases to that area for healing. Well, the same thing happens when small lesions are made in various tissues. Small amounts of blood go to that area to stimulate healing.
As far as research goes, there are several studies demonstrating short-term results and improvements but no high-quality or longer term trials have been done yet (2-5). Many experts and studies suggest it is an effective therapy in the short-term and is meant to be done with physical therapy to retrain the muscle (6-7). For any individuals struggling with fibromyalgia pain, take note; there are numerous studies showing improvements in pain for individuals with fibromyalgia (2-4).
So, without long term studies, why did I move forward with dry needling? Simple. I asked my questions of the experts, I had them explain the mechanisms, I made sure the potential benefits outweighed the potential risks, I listened to numerous testimonials and I made a decision for myself to experiment. Listen though, if you try dry needling, you must ensure the professional you’re seeing is properly trained! Ask questions, get a proper assessment by a physical therapist first, and make sure you’re utilizing other modalities to retrain the muscle.
Lastly, if you’re wondering what this feels like to have done, it’s not a painful process but the twitching is real and noticeable. In fact, in some of my sessions, the leg they were not working on would start twitching too. Trippy!
Another part of my physical therapy session includes dynamic cupping. Cupping therapy is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practice that involves cups being placed on the skin to create suction. Traditional cupping involves using flames to heat and power the suction inside glass cups. Fortunately, with modern development there are now ways to do cupping without using an open flame. Types of cupping include: dry cupping, wet cupping, moving cupping, and needling cupping (1). Cups can be made out of plastic, silicone, bamboo or glass.
- Dry cupping: a vacuum is created by heating the cup directly or using an open flame or a rubber pump.
- Wet cupping: similar to dry cupping but includes laceration of the skin and blood being drawn.
- Massage (“glide”) cupping: combining massage and cupping by moving cups over affected areas causing myofascial release.
- Needle cupping: combining cupping with acupuncture by inserting an acupuncture needle into the skin and a cup over the needle.
How it Works
The cups are strategically placed on an area indicated by an acupuncture point, pain, or a reflex zone. Cups are usually left on for 5-10 minutes, allowing enough time for the air to begin to cool inside the cup and have its effects. As the air inside the cup cools, it creates suction that draws the skin up into the cup and causes reddening as blood vessels expand. A distinctive red circle appears on the skin and shows where your tissue has been pulled up. The circles fade over the course of several days.
The suction on the skin increases blood flow to stagnant skin and muscles. As you have gathered by now, this promotes healing (1,2). In addition to improving our subcutaneous blood flow, cupping reduces pain and loosens tight or painful muscles by promoting relaxation of the muscle fibers. It helps loosen scar tissue and lifts connective tissue, making them more flexible, thereby reducing pain.
Other claims include:
- Draining excess fluids and toxins from the body due to cupping’s ability to stimulate the lymphatic system (and therefore strengthening our immune system).
- Influencing neurohormones and stimulating our peripheral nervous system (2).
- Reducing pain in conditions like cervical pain, back pain, osteoarthritis and acute soft tissue injury (3).
Although cupping has been used for over 2,000 years, the effectiveness of cupping has not been well documented. There are various reasons, including having a hard time getting large enough sample sizes, the difficulty of making it a blind study, and avoiding assessment bias.
The last piece to my physical therapy sessions is acupuncture. The Balance Point Therapy clinic uses an Integrative Sports Acupuncture technique to help improve recovery time, reduce pain and improve neuromuscular activation. Neuromuscular refers to how the nervous system (neural) and muscular system (muscular) talk to each other.
Acupuncture is an ancient practice of inserting tiny needles at pressure points in the body. It may look painful, but it doesn’t hurt at all. In the hands of a skilled professional, you won’t feel the needle poke one bit. Acupuncture, referred to as Eastern or Oriental Medicine practice, originated in Asia. Originally, it was not based on literature but rather on belief in “qi” (pronounced chi or like you’re about to say cheese). It’s believed that the body’s qi is a life-giving force, and when blocked, illness manifests. Acupuncture restores the body’s qi by removing the blockages and restoring balance. This therapy is commonly used in Integrative Medicine clinics as part of a whole person healing approach.
When it comes to research on healing, there are studies that show acupuncture aids in the healing of injuries including chronic pain, anxiety, headaches, and osteoarthritis (1-6). Some people experience pain at the injection site, bruising, and some bleeding, but many experience minimal side effects.
Vibration Stimulation Massage Therapy
Vibration stimulation: a massage technique done by a therapist or a device. The point is to create a vibration or shaking motion onto the muscles. This can be done slowly and lightly, which relaxes the muscles and feels soothing, or at a faster speed to increase circulation and loosen soft tissues. Either way the the vibration helps to relax muscles, increase blood flow and prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (1). It also provides stimulation to muscle spindles and decreases perception of pain. The stimulation isn’t always applied directly to the painful area, but also above, below or around it.
We know blood flow and muscle oxygenation are closely related. When healing remedies are targeted to increase blood flow, we also get more oxygen and nutrient delivery to those tissues. When exercising and weight training with heavy weights, the body automatically sends more blood to the muscles being stimulated because of increased demand for oxygen (2). For my hamstring, I intentionally engage in movement and exercise, but not to the point of pain.
Next, I used Intravenous (IV) Glutathione therapy. Glutathione is a molecule produced by the body. Three amino acids make it up: glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid. So, with a good diet, we produce this ourselves. Now, genetics and a few other factors come into play there, but we’ll keep it basic for this blog. Glutathione, referred to as the “mother antioxidant,” is responsible for many functions in the body regarding cellular heath and immunity. It plays a role in many metabolic pathways, neutralizes free radicals, recycles/regenerates antioxidants (1).
Glutathione is used up faster during times of stress. Stressors can include infections, a #hustle lifestyle, inflammation, an unhealthy diet and an acute injury. During the hamstring healing process, my body is using more glutathione. There are no foods naturally in glutathione since the body make it itself so in this case, supplementation and amino acid support is ideal.
Through no fault of our own, glutathione levels also naturally decrease with age (2). Additionally, studies show a glutathione deficiency plays a role in oxidative stress, aging, and the development of diseases such as autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, HIV, AIDS, cancer, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes (3,5).
Glutathione supplementation is effective in: (3, 4)
- Boosting immunity
- Cancer protection
- Detoxification of toxins
- Healing at a cellular level
You can read more about supplementation methods here. I chose IV supplementation for glutathione for faster delivery to my system. I also know exactly what and how much I’m getting. There are oral glutathione supplements out there, but some studies have shown they are not as bioavailable or absorbable as IV supplementation (1).
Many store-bought glutathione products will just break down into the amino acids upon digestion which misses the point of supplementing. You want something that passes through the digestion process like IV or liposomal glutathione. DO NOT supplement with glutathione on a whim. With any type of supplementation, it comes down to the individual: How much do you need? Do you even need to supplement? For how long? These are all questions that a qualified healthcare provider can help you answer. My advice is to avoid pop-shops where you don’t know what you’re getting. Stick with trained professionals.
My Progress with these Healing Remedies
There you have it! This protocol adds up to about three hours of therapy per day. I plan to do this routine for at least six weeks. These healing remedies have worked, and they’ve worked quickly! These videos show various stages of my progress.
All of these treatments combined are promoting repair by increasing oxygenation, increasing blood flow and providing essential nutrients to the tissues (via diet, supplements and IV treatments).
My best advice if you choose to use natural healing remedies is:
- Get a doctor who will work with you.
- Investigate all of your options and make a decision that’s best for you and your situation.
- Choose the healing remedies that have the biggest impact, are accessible and affordable for you.
- Regardless of what route you take, nourish yourself with real, nutrient dense food and get lots of good sleep!
- Keep a positive attitude. Setbacks are part of life. Focus on what you’re grateful for!
Happy healing to you!
To learn additional natural healing remedies for weight loss resistance, hormonal imbalance, leaky gut and so much more, visit the 131 Method
HGH & Testosterone Resources
Dry Needling Resources:
Vibration Stimulation Resources:
- Brooks GA, Fahey TD, Baldwin KM. Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and Its Applications. 4th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill;; 2005.