Summary of Hamstring Strain
The hamstring muscles are located down the back of the thigh, and can be injured following excessive tension and stretching.
Hamstring Strain FAQ's
The muscles down the back of the thigh are known as your hamstring muscles, and are attached to the pelvic bone and back of the knee. The hamstring is responsible for bending the knee and extending the leg backwards, with the majority of activity being required during running, walking and kicking.
A strain to the hamstring occurs when the muscles are torn, and is a common sports injury.
Pain in a hamstring strain will be left just below the buttock, where the hamstring attaches to the pelvis. Pain may also be felt along the length of the thigh where the bulk of the muscles are located.
This may make movement difficult particularly moving upstairs, running, and even walking. Tightness may also be felt in the back of the thigh though this depends on the severity and grade of the injury:
Grade 1. Mild discomfort
Grade 2. Moderate discomfort and some negative effect on movement
Grade 3. Severe injury that is painful when moving. Significant bruising and swelling is common in Grade 3 cases
While minor cases can be resolved within a few weeks, more severe cases can take up to 3 months to repair. The most severe cases may require surgery, although this is rare. Before returning to sporting activity after any degree of strain, the clinician will want to see that you have trained your body with a gradual and progressive return to activity.
When the tension in the hamstring becomes increasingly repetitive, such as during overuse and over exercise, one or more hamstring muscles can become torn. This tear can occur at either end of the muscle, or within the muscle itself.
It is a common injury in sports people who do not warm up sufficiently and are thus unprepared for a high level of exertion.
There are three grades of hamstring strain:
- A small number of muscle fibres are torn but the leg can perform normally
- Moderate restriction in activity is caused by a few tears in the muscle
- The muscle fibres become completely ruptured and the leg cannot be used properly
Mild to moderate sprains can be treated using RICE therapy – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. In the initial period after the injury you must also avoid HARM – Heat, Alcohol, Running and Massage.
After a couple of weeks, the injury will lay scar tissue over the tear, so gentle stress and exercise must be applied in order for the scar tissue to be laid evenly. Exercise is the most important part of treatment and will progress gradually as you move through the rehabilitation stages. Heat treatment after the initial injury may be recommended to aid the healing process and soothe the injury site.
The exercise program will be tailored to the extend and grade of your injury, and must be performed correctly in order for you to regain full use of the hamstring muscles. Failure to perform the prescribed activities at the right time can result in a poor repair and prolonged pain, with a high risk of reoccurrence.
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