Hamstring Strain

 A hamstring strain is a common leg injury involving a tear in one or more of the hamstring muscles. You have four hamstring muscles: Semimembranosus and semitendinosus (medially) and biceps femoris – short and long heads (laterally). A hamstring strain can range from mild to very severe involving a complete tear of the hamstring muscle.

Why do Hamstring Muscles strain?

Common reasons for hamstring strain are:

  • Poor timing/coordination and eccentric strength of the hamstring muscles at the point where the leg switches from swinging forwards to pulling backwards as it hits the ground whilst running

  • Lack of “stiffness” and eccentric strength during the stance phase of the running cycle

  • Previous hamstring strains

  • Poor running technique – this consists primarily of overstriding or poor pelvic control, which puts the hamstrings in a vulnerable position at ground contact.

  • Poor warm-up – your warm-up must be active and dynamic to prepare the hamstring muscles for the forces involved. Passive stretching is only one segment of warm-up.

  • Inappropriate training loads. Your hamstrings are primarily fast twitch Type II fibres that fatigue quickly. High speed work should be done early in workout, as close to warm-up as possible to avoid fatigue.

  • Lower back injury. Abnormalities of the lumbar spine or poor pelvic control that can cause nerve dysfunction and subsequent muscle weakness can predispose you to injury

What are the symptoms of a Hamstring Strain?

Mild hamstring strains may feel more like a tightness or low grade ache in your hamstring.

More 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

Beware of referred Hamstring Pain

Due to your sciatic nerve passing through the hamstring muscle group, a lower back injury or some other injury that pinches the sciatic nerve can replicate the symptoms of a hamstring strain. It is therefore vital that you seek a professional diagnosis from your Leading Edge physiotherapist who is an expert in hamstring and back injuries.

Can I prevent Hamstring Strain?

There are certain risk factors that pre-dispose you to Hamstring Strains.

Our physiotherapists have extensive training in identifying these risk factors, and can help you work on reducing your risk of developing this frustrating injury.

How do you treat Hamstring Strain?

Many patients with a hamstring start to feel better within a few days of the injury. However, there is an extremely high hamstring re-injury rate due to a poor rehabilitation process.

Hamstring strains are an injury that professional guidance is highly recommended for both an accurate diagnosis but also provide you with the best chance of avoiding repeat hamstring injuries.

Repeat hamstring injuries have unfortunately curtailed many a bidding athlete’s career.

Your Leading Edge physiotherapists will aim to:

  • Reduce hamstring pain and inflammation

  • Normalise your muscle range of motion and extensibility

  • Strengthen your knee muscles and hamstrings

  • Strengthen your lower limb muscles: calves, hip and pelvis muscles

  • Normalise lumbo-pelvic control and stability – a co-factor in many hamstring strains

  • Normalise your neurodynamics to enable your sciatic nerve to pass freely without scar adhesions

  • Improve your game speed, proprioception, agility and balance

  • Improve your technique and function eg running, sprinting, jumping, hopping and landing

  • Minimise your chance of hamstring re-injury

I've injured my Hamstring Strain, what do I do now?

If you have just strained your hamstring, then the first thing to do is the follow the RICE principles to prevent further damage to the injured muscle.

As soon as possible, and for 72 hours after injury, use the RICE method:

Rest - Take it easy and only move within your limit of pain.

Ice - As soon as possible, and for 20 minutes every two hours, apply ice or a frozen gel pack wrapped in a damp towel. This helps to control bleeding and pain and reduces secondary tissue damage.

Compression - Firmly bandage the hamstring – this can be done using tubular elastic bandage. This helps to control swelling.

Elevation - As much as possible, elevate your leg higher than the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

Your next step is to have your hamstring strain assessed by a Leading Edge Physiotherapist. Contact us or book online today.