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Marathon Q&A: Darryl Tannenbaum

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Dr. Darryl Tannenbaum
Dr. Darryl Tannenbaum

Dr. Darryl Tannenbaum is a board certified orthopedic surgeon with Columbus Regional Health’s Joint and Spine Center and Southern Indiana Orthopedics. Tannenbaum has run in more than 20 races, completing the six World Major Marathons in places that include Boston, Berlin, London and Tokyo. He hopes to complete a marathon on every continent and plans to run one in Antarctica in March. Got a question for the doctor? Send it to

Q: I have pain along the top of my hamstrings that severely limits my ability to run. Any suggestions?

A: I am sorry to hear about your hamstring issues. Upper hamstring tendinitis is a common, frustrating problem that requires patience and is almost exclusively a runners’ injury.

First, it’s important to rule out any lower back issue. Pain in this area can radiate to the back of the leg and lower back. Without fully healing, nerve irritation can make a muscle more vulnerable to injury.

The upper hamstring area includes a set of fast-twitch muscles and tendons that runners put under intense and relentless contraction while propelling your body forward with every step. High hamstring tendinitis refers to inflammation of the common origin of the three hamstring muscles.

Pain from the upper hamstring can remain when not running. Conservatively, you’ll need at least a month off from running while the upper hamstrings rest and heal. You can bicycle or swim, but taking any less time off will at best, provide temporary relief. There are useful stretching and strengthening programs for the upper hamstring complex that are widely accepted for this injury.

Here is an excellent link:

However, there are a few activities through smart daily practices that can make a world of difference for you.

For one month, every half-hour, get up for 5 minutes and walk around at work and at home. Also, be aware and practice good posture at home and work while making sure your office chair has a contoured seat.

Once you can fully stretch and provide resistance with your hamstring, begin the gradual return-to-running program outlined here:

Week 1: Walk 5 minutes, jog 1 minute, build to 5 sets on alternating days.

Week 2: If no pain, walk 5 minutes, jog 5 minutes, build to 5 sets on alternating days.

Week 3: If no pain, advance to 20 minutes jog, no more than 5 days per week.

Week 4: If no pain, advance to 20 minutes run at normal training pace, no more than 5 days per week.

Weeks 5 to 8: If no pain, gradually increase running speed, volume and acceleration as tolerated.

This is a challenging injury for runners because it takes time to heal, but you can overcome it. Good luck!

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