A hamstring strain is a common leg injury involving a tear in one or more of the hamstring muscles. A hamstring strain can range from mild to very severe involving a complete tear of the hamstring muscle.

You have four hamstring muscles: semimembranosus and semitendinosus (medially) and biceps femoris – short and long heads (laterally).

What are the Symptoms of a Hamstring Strain?

Mild hamstring strains may feel more like a tightness or low-grade ache in your hamstring. Severe hamstring strains can be extremely painful, making it impossible to walk or even stand.

Other possible symptoms of a hamstring strain are:

— Sudden and severe pain during exercise, along with a snapping or popping feeling.

— Pain in the back of the thigh and lower buttock when walking, straightening the leg, or bending over.

— Hamstring tenderness.

— Bruising.

Treatment

Treatment for a hamstring strain can be categorized into immediate first aid and longer term treatment which begins after the initial acute period has passed.

Immediate first aid consists of the PRICE principles of protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation and will usually last 3 to 4 days depending on severity. A cold therapy and compression wrap should be applied immediately for 10-15 minutes and repeat this every hour for the first day. After this, every 2-3 hours is usually sufficient. A compression bandage or thigh support can be worn to minimize bleeding in the muscle and help control swelling. Rest as much as possible with the leg elevated to help drain away swelling and tissue fluids.

After the initial acute stage has passed hot and cold can be alternated and during the later stages of treatment heat alone is applied for up to 20 minutes to stimulate blood flow and relax the muscles.

A professional therapist may apply sports massage techniques and use electrotherapy such as ultrasound as well as advise on a full rehabilitation program to include stretching, strengthening and functional exercises.

Performing foam roller exercises foam roller exercises for the hamstrings can massage and apply myofascial pain release to the muscles. Pressure is applied from just above the knee upwards following the direction of blood flow.

Read more about treatment for hamstring strains.

Exercises

Both stretching and strengthening exercises are important. Our four strand hamstring strain rehabilitation program includes gradually progressive exercises which the patient can work through until fully fit. Exercises should begin as soon as possible after the acute stage but always be done pain free.

Stretching – after the initial acute stage very gentle stretching exercises can begin as long as they are pain free. Initially simple static stretching exercises should be done with leg both straight and slightly bent in order to target different parts of the muscle. In the later stages of rehabilitation more dynamic and functional (sports specific) stretching exercises should be done.

Read more on Stretching for hamstring rehabilitation.

Strengthening exercises should always be done pain free begin with gentle static or isometric contractions as soon as possible after the initial acute period. The patient will gradually progress through a serious of more dynamic and functional exercises involving movement. Eventually sports specific exercises and drills should be performed before returning to full competition or training.

Read more on our 10 essential hamstring strengthening exercises.

Maintaining fitness is important not only to speed up the athletes return to full fitness but to keep them sane! After the acute stage stationary exercise machines such as rowing machines and cross trainers are used. Gradually the athlete progresses to gentle jogging and shuttle runs. Finally acceleration runs and sprinting speed is gradually developed.

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