Your hamstring is not a single “string” of muscle. Instead, it is a bundle of three muscles that run down the back of the thigh. The hamstring is what allows you to bend your knee. Hamstring strains mean one of these muscles got overloaded. They may even begin to tear.
Hamstring strains are common. And they are painful too. Athletes endure hamstring strains frequently. Especially runners, basketball and soccer players, and skaters. The most common activities to cause hamstring sprains are:
- Sudden stopping and starting
The risk of a hamstring sprain increases if:
- You do not warm-up before exercise.
- You have weak glutes. The glutes and hamstrings work together, and weak glutes make the hamstrings work harder. Therefore, causing weakened glutes.
- The muscles in the thigh are tight. Therefore, pulling the pelvis forward, which tightens the hamstring.
Also, see: Hip & Thigh running Injuries
What Does a Strain Feel Like?
Mild sprains are not too painful. But a severe strain can make it difficult to walk. You may also experience:
- Sudden and severe pain during exercise
- Popping or snapping feeling
Pain at the back of the thigh (when bending and straightening the leg).
Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms. Then, conduct a physical exam to diagnose a hamstring strain. You will need to inform them how the injury happened too.
Treatment for Hamstring Strains
If your hamstring is torn, you may need to have surgery. But, most minor strains will heal on their own. It just takes a little time. You can help the healing process by getting plenty of rest. Use crutches if needed to keep weight off the leg. You can also use ice therapy to reduce swelling and pain. Additionally, compression with an elastic bandage also reduces swelling. Anytime you are sitting or lying down, elevate your leg.
Also, see: What is the RICE Method for Injuries?
Stretching and strengthening exercises will also help. Your doctor or a physical therapist can advise which are best. Your doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory pain medication. NSAIDs like ibuprofen can reduce pain and swelling. These drugs have side effects like ulcers. So, you only want to use them for a short time.