Pulled your hamstring?
A hamstring strain can be described as an injury to one of three hamstring muscles on the back of your thigh (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, & semimembranosus). Hamstrings are very easy to injury at the end of swing phase of your gait (when the leg is extended in front of you). This is because your hamstrings must rapidly stop the forward moving limb while at their stretched limits and then contract to propel the leg backwards. A strain means that the muscle has partially torn. There are three grades of strain, grade 3 including a complete muscle tear (rare). Hamstrings are the most commonly strained muscles in the legs.
What causes a Hamstring Strain?
There are many conflicting opinions and often several factors explaining the cause of these injuries. They are commonly caused by a violent stretch (like in water skiing) or ballistic activities (like sprints, kicking, stop & go). People at high risk for a hamstring strain are those who have previously injured their hamstrings especially with inadequate rehabilitation. High risk future injuries also includes those with decreased hamstring flexibility, endurance, strength (<50% of quad strength), and coordination, and other muscle imbalances.
How do I get rid of them?
- Rest, ice, compression and elevation is appropriate for acute episodes
- Tape or thigh sleeve (avoid materials like neoprene that hold the heat)
- Avoid heat and aggressive manual therapy (massage) initially – as this increases bleeding and swelling
- Increase your activity by no more than 10 percent per week. That includes distance, intensity, weight lifted and time of exercise.
- Avoid pain as you begin exercising again (using the 10%
rule) in this order – walking, jogging, running, straight sprinting, stop & go, slow direction changes, sharp direction changes.
- Ice or ice massage after activity
*If home treatment does not work after 1 week, consider visiting a chiropractic physician or other physical medicine doctor who can offer muscle therapy/massage, electromodalities, taping, manipulation, and stretching therapies.
What if self treatment doesn’t work? Are there other treatments?
There are many more treatment options if you go to an office specialized in physical medicine (chiropractic, physical therapy, etc.). Treatment may include
- Myofascial release treatment (Graston instrument assisted massage)
- Kinesio Taping (black tape seen in the Olympics)
- Leg, Knee, Back, Foot physical therapy/manipulation/corrective exercises
- Muscle stimulation therapy