A hamstring injury is a strain or tear to the large muscles at the back of the thigh. It is a common injury and has three different severity grades:
- Grade 1 – a mild muscle pull or strain
- Grade 2 – a partial muscle tear
- Grade 3 – a complete muscle tear
Hamstrings are tendons or fibrous connective tissues that connect muscle tissue to bones. The word ‘hamstring’ also refers to the three muscles that stretch behind the thigh, from the hips to below the knees.
In general, the hamstrings are not used much when standing and walking. However, this muscle is very active when a person is engaging in activities such as jumping, climbing, bending the knees and running.
Hamstring injuries often occur in athletes, especially those who participate in running, basketball and soccer. The recovery period varies depending on the severity of the injury.
Causes of Hamstring Injury
A hamstring injury can occur when part or all of the tendon muscle is stretched beyond its limit. This usually happens when doing a sudden intense activity, such as running and jumping.
However, hamstring injuries can also occur gradually when an individual engages in slower movements that pull the hamstring muscles beyond their maximum limit.
Hamstring injuries often recur in athletes. Someone who has had a previous hamstring injury is more likely to deal with the same injury.
Some of the most common causes of hamstring injuries are:
- Sports activities.
- History of hamstring injury.
- Poor muscle flexibility. Inflexible muscles will have difficulty withstanding weights and withstanding pressure during activity.
- Muscle imbalance. Hamstring injuries may also occur if the quadriceps muscle is stronger than the hamstring muscles.
In addition, when exercising, hamstring injuries are more likely to happen if:
- Not warming up before exercising.
- The muscles of the quadriceps tighten as the hips are pulled forward.
- The gluteus muscles, the muscles that move the hips, weaken and cause the hamstring muscles to become overloaded.
When to See a Doctor for Hamstring Injury?
Patients with hamstring injuries can consult a sports medicine specialist.
Before the examination, the doctor will conduct a medical interview by asking about the patient’s symptoms and previous medical history. This is done to determine if the patient has had a similar injury before.
Subsequently, the doctor will perform a physical examination to identify the area causing pain and swelling in the thigh. This examination serves to assess the severity of the hamstring injury experienced by the patient. Moving the patient’s leg in various directions during this physical examination will also help the doctor identify the part of the muscle that is damaged.
After the physical examination, the doctor will advise on the right time for the patient to return to normal activities. The doctor will also recommend types of physical exercise to improve the condition of the hamstring muscles.
Hamstring injuries can generally get better on their own with home remedies. However, if the injury does not improve after weeks, the patient is advised to consult a doctor. In some severe cases, patients may need to undergo medical therapy.
Symptoms of Hamstring Injury
Hamstring injuries can cause symptoms such as:
- Sudden pain while exercising.
- Pain in the back of the thigh when straightening the leg or bending over.
The symptoms of a hamstring injury can vary depending on the severity. In first-degree hamstring or mild hamstring injuries, the most common symptom is sudden pain in the back of the thigh. Patients may have difficulty moving the legs, but the muscles can still move properly.
In second-degree hamstring injuries or partial hamstring injuries, the pain is usually worse. The back of the thigh may also experience swelling and bruising. At this level, the patient generally has lost the ability to use the leg normally due to the pain.
For a third-degree hamstring injury or a complete hamstring tear, the pain will get worse and the bruising and swelling will become more visible. The patient may also feel a “popping” sensation on the injured area.
Treatment for Hamstring Injury
In cases of minor hamstring injuries, the patient does not need special treatment, as the injury can heal on its own. However, to speed up the recovery, treatments may include:
- Consume a pain reliever or painkiller. It’s best to take a painkiller that doesn’t contain steroids. Consult with your doctor first regarding the appropriate doses.
- Rest your feet by avoiding heavy weight. If the pain gets worse, you may need to be put in crutches until you recover
- Apply some ice to the feet to reduce pain and swelling. This can be done every four to five hours within 20-30 minute duration.
- Compress the foot with an elastic bandage to protect the swollen area.
- Put your feet in a higher position using a pillow as a support when sitting or lying down.
- Do stretching exercises if recommended by your doctor.
People with hamstring injuries are advised to not immediately start doing sports activities after the injury has healed. It is recommended to exercise gradually, starting with light exercise first.
Walking is an example of a mild exercise. In patients with severe hamstring injuries, the patient may need to undergo therapy with a physiotherapist.
Treatment Cost for Hamstring Injury
The cost for hamstring injury treatment varies, depending on the patient’s condition, symptoms, and severity.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of hamstring injury treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Hamstring Injury
Hamstring injuries usually occur in athletes while doing sports activities. Athletes, or people who routinely do daily exercise, need to pay attention to the condition of the hamstring muscles before starting to exercise.
General preventive measures to avoid hamstring injuries include:
- Stretch or warm up before exercise.
- Do physical activities with slow yet increasing intensity.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain in the back of your thigh.
- Regularly stretch and strengthen the thigh muscles, including the hamstring muscles, to prevent injury from sudden activity
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Hamstring Injury
Hamstring injury, especially minor cases, can resolve on their own with home remedies without having to go to the hospital. For patients taking pain relievers or painkillers, it is recommended to take these medications in appropriate doses.
In addition, it is also suggested to regularly apply compresses with cold water or ice cubes to the swollen muscles to relieve pain and bruising. When using crutches, make sure they are used and cleaned properly.
While sitting or lying down, try to lift the injured leg and place it in a higher position than the rest of the body. This can be done by using a pillow as a support.