What is a hamstring injury? A hamstring injury occurs when a person strains or pulls one of the hamstring muscles – a group of 3 muscles which run along the back of the thigh (from the hip to just below the knee). The hamstring muscles make it possible to contract the leg and bend the knee. When any of those muscles stretch beyond their limit during physical activities, injury can result. Read this article to learn more about hamstring injury symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Who Are Susceptible to Hamstring Injury?
A person is more susceptible to a hamstring injury if he/she plays basketball, football, tennis, soccer, or other sports that involve sprinting, sudden stops, and starts. A hamstring injury can also occur more commonly in runners and dancers.
Causes of Hamstring Injury
A hamstring injury can occur if:
• You don’t warm up before exercising.
• The muscles in the front of the thigh (quadriceps) are tight as they pull the pelvis forward and tighten your hamstrings.
• You have weak glutes. The glutes and hamstrings work together. If your glutes are weak, the hamstrings may be overloaded and become strained.
Hamstring Injury Symptoms
Mild hamstring strain may not hurt too much. But severe injuries can be agonizing, making it impossible or painful to walk or stand. The symptoms of a hamstring injury include:
• Sudden and severe pain, along with a snapping/popping feeling,
• Pain in the back of the thigh when walking, bending over, or straightening the leg,
• Discoloration along the back of the leg,
• Muscle weakness, and
• Inability to put weight on the injured leg.
To diagnose a hamstring injury, a doctor will give a thorough physical examination. He or she will ask specific questions on how the leg was injured. During the physical examination, the doctor will check swelling or points of tenderness on the back of the thigh. The location and intensity of the pain can help determine the extent of the damage.
The doctor might also move the injured leg into various positions to pinpoint which muscle was injured and determine if you have any ligament or tendon damage.
In a severe hamstring injury, the muscle can tear or detach from where it is connected to the pelvis or tibia (lower leg bone). In some cases, a small piece of bone can be pulled away (this is known as an avulsion fracture) from the main bone where the detachment occurs. X-rays can be used to check for avulsion fractures. Ultrasound and MRI, meanwhile, can visualize tears in the muscles and tendons.
Hamstring Injury Treatment
Minor to moderate hamstring strains may heal on their own. To speed up healing, you can:
• Rest your leg – If possible, avoid putting weight on your leg. If the pain is severe, you might need crutches until it goes away. The doctor will advise you if they are needed.
• Ice your leg – Do this to reduce pain and swelling. Do it for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days.
• Elevate your leg – When you’re sitting or lying down, elevate your leg on a pillow.
• Take anti-inflammatory painkillers – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) can help reduce pain and swelling. That said, these drugs can have side effects, such as an increased risk of ulcers. NSAIDs should be used only short term, unless a doctor says otherwise.
In more severe cases wherein the muscle is torn, surgery may be necessary. The doctor/surgeon will repair the affected muscles and reattach them.
Self-care measures such as ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain medications are usually all that are needed to relieve the pain and swelling of a hamstring injury. But in some cases, surgery may be needed to repair the hamstring muscle or tendon. We hope that this article about hamstring injury symptoms, causes, and treatment can help you avoid hamstring injuries when doing sports or other physical activities. If you have any questions about hamstring injuries, consult your doctor.
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