Aches and pains on the back of your legs can be a sign of a hamstring injury.
Hamstring injuries are very common, especially in athletes who participate in sports that require sprinting, such as track, soccer, football, tennis and basketball.
What Is a Hamstring Injury?
The large group of muscles and tendons in the back of the thigh are commonly called the hamstrings. The hamstrings bend at your knee and flexes at the hip to bend your leg back.
A hamstring strain can be a pull, partial tear, or complete tear.
Hamstring Injury Causes
Muscle overload is the main cause of hamstring muscle injury. This can happen when the muscle is challenged with a sudden load or stretched beyond its capacity.
Hamstring Injury Risk Factors
There are many factors that influence this injury:
- Poor flexibility
- Tight hip flexors
- Sports participation
- Prior hamstring injury
- Poor muscle strength
- Differences in leg length
- Muscle fatigue during activity
- Pushing beyond your current limits
- Weak gluteus (buttocks) muscles
- Improper or no warm-up before exercising
- Quadriceps and hamstring muscles imbalance
Symptoms of Hamstring Injuries
If you strain your hamstring while sprinting, you will notice a sharp, sudden pain in the back of your thigh. It will likely cause you to come to a quick stop or fall. You might also feel a pop or tearing sensation.
Additional symptoms may include:
- Swelling for the first few hours after the injury
- Bruising or discoloration below the knee on the back of your leg
- Weakness in your hamstring that can last for weeks
Types of Hamstring Injuries
There are three grades of hamstring strains, depending on the severity of the injury:
Grade 1: A mild muscle pull or strain
Grade 2: A partial muscle tear
Grade 3: A complete muscle tear
Muscle strains are graded according to their severity. A Grade 1 strain is mild and usually heals readily. A Grade 3 strain is a complete tear of the muscle that may take months to heal.
Most hamstring injuries occur in the thickest central part of the muscle or where the muscle fibers joint tendon fibers.
In the most severe hamstring injuries, the tendon tears away from the bone – possibly pulling a piece of bone away with it. This is called an avulsion injury.
Hamstring Injury Diagnosis
During the physical examination, your doctor will ask about the injury and check the back of your thigh for tenderness or bruising. The doctor will check for pain, weakness, swelling, or a more severe muscle injury.
Imaging tests such as x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also help your doctor to confirm your diagnosis.
Hamstring Injury Treatment
Treatment of hamstring injuries will vary depending on the type of injury you have, its severity, and your own needs and expectations.
The goal of any treatment, nonsurgical or surgical, is to help you get back to your life in full motion. Closely following your doctor’s treatment plan will restore your abilities faster, and help you prevent problems in the future.
Physical therapy and exercises may be recommended to help strengthen muscles around the injured area.
Home Remedies/Nonsurgical Treatment to Hamstring Injuries
Most hamstring strains heal well with simple, nonsurgical treatment.
The RICE protocol is ideal for most sports-related injuries. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Rest. Take a break from the activity that resulted in the injury.
Ice. Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, a few times a day.
Compression. Wear an elastic compression bandage around the injury.
Elevation. Put your leg up higher than your heart while reclining.
Hamstring Injury Prevention
- Warm up before working out or playing sports, and be sure to cool down afterward.
- Exercise regularly to maintain muscular and cardiovascular fitness and prevent injuries from fatigue.
- Stretch and Strengthen. Spend time stretching and strengthening your muscles weekly to prevent muscular imbalances that may cause injury.
- Take days off or have easier days between hard physical sessions.
- Add speed work to your fitness routine to prepare hamstring muscles for the types of muscle loads that may lead to injury.
- Be sure to follow your doctor’s treatment plan.
- Return to sports only after your doctor has given you approval.
Reinjuring your hamstring increases your risk of permanent damage, resulting in a chronic condition.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you believe you’re suffering from a hamstring injury, let us help you get back to doing the things you love.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.