The hamstring is the muscle at the back of the leg. It spans from the buttock to below the knee. A strain is a tear to the muscle fibres. The symptoms are usually sudden pain and the person is unable to continue the activity. Sometimes a snap or pop is heard or felt at the time of the injury and the person may not be able to stand or support weight on the injured leg. There will be a tightness, tenderness and inflammation at the back of the thigh. There may also be muscle spasms and bruising over time.
The immediate response to hamstring injury is to stop the activity and rest the leg.
Ice should be applied as soon as possible after the injury and should be applied regularly (around 20 minutes every two hours) for the next 48 – 72 hours.
Elevation will also help reduce inflammation, but it is difficult, and usually impractical, to raise the thigh above heart height. Compression is often used for soft tissue injuries, but you must ensure that the compression does not restrict blood flow down the leg.
Any injury where the pain is severe, pain continues for more than a few days, there is tingling or numbness, or you are unable to support your weight should be referred to a doctor.
The rehabilitation for a hamstring strain will depend on the severity of the injury and may include self treatment, anti-inflammatory/pain relief, physiotherapy or surgery (usually only for a full rupture).
- Rest from the activities that led to the injury, or may aggravate it further.
- Careful stretching of the muscles. This should only be done after the acute inflammation has gone down and when pain permits. Applying heat or a thigh heat wrap can help warm and relax the muscles prior to the stretching.
- Strengthen the surrounding muscles. This should be a gradual process that does not put a sudden strain on the hamstring or other muscles. Do be aware that injury can lead to imbalance amongst muscles as your body adjusts to minimise damage or pain e.g. the limping you do to reduce pain in your thigh can put a strain on the muscles and tendons in the knee, hip and calf of the same le, and in all of the muscles of your other leg, as your body tries to compensate.
We will be able to guide you on the stretching and exercises that can be done to strengthen and aid recovery, without aggravating the injury. We may also use other treatments such as massage and electrotherapy treatments such as ultrasound.