The hamstrings are tendons at the back of the thighs that attach the large muscle of the thigh to the bone. The term hamstring also refers to the group of three muscles – biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus – that run along the back of your thigh, from your hip to just below your knee. When one or more of these muscles gets overstretched, they may start to tear.
Hamstring Injuries are common problems that cause significant loss of on-field time for many athletes because these injuries require a certain amount of time to recover. It puts them at high risk for recurrence if not given proper rest and rehabilitation.
Hamstring injuries are muscle strain injuries. A strain is when a muscle becomes overstretched and torn. Hamstring strain therefore means you have pulled one or more of the muscles in your thigh.
There are 3 levels of hamstring strains:
• Grade 1 – mild muscle strain or pull
• Grade 2 – partial muscle tear
• Grade 3 – complete muscle tear
Hamstring muscle injuries are usually ‘heterogenous’, which means they come in a variety of types, sizes and locations. Consequently, two people can tear exactly the same muscle but recover at different speeds. Recovery time depends on the grade of the injury. A grade 1 injury can heal in a few days, while a grade 3 injury could take much longer to heal or require surgery.
Muscle strains may occur over time as a result of overuse injury or they may occur acutely with an abrupt specific injury. Muscle or tendon strains cause inflammation surrounding the injury site and symptoms commonly include pain and tenderness. The maximal point of tenderness indicates where the tear is.
Additional symptoms may include:
• Swelling during the first few hours after injury
• Bruising or discoloration of the back of your leg below the knee over the first few days
• Weakness in your hamstring that can persist for weeks
Typically, hamstring injuries are caused by rapid acceleration activities when running or initiating running activity. They comprise a substantial percentage of acute musculoskeletal injuries incurred during sporting activities. Athletes in track, football and rugby are especially prone to this injury due to the sprinting demands of these sports. About 70% of hamstring injuries occur during high-speed running, while 30% during stretching manoeuvres.
Hamstring injuries can be also from overstretch tears that dancers experience a lot. These tend to be done at less speed and less traumatic than the high speed explosive tears from sprinting and running.
How to Prevent a Hamstring Strain
As hamstring strains can be painful injuries, athletes should work hard to prevent them. Dealing with a hamstring injury is much harder than preventing it. Here are some tips:
• Do stretching exercises before and after physical activity
• Increase the intensity of your physical activity gradually. It must not go more than 10% increase each week.
• If you feel pain, stop exercising.
• Stretch and strengthen hamstrings as a preventative measure.
How Physiotherapy Helps
The immediate treatment for hamstring injuries consists of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to reduce bleeding and damage to the hamstring muscle tissue. After resting on the early stages, more active rehabilitation can begin.
Physiotherapy helps patients with hamstring injury to speed up the healing process and ensure optimal outcome. A physiotherapist works to reduce hamstring pain and inflammation and normalise muscle range of motion and extensibility. After the pain and swelling of a hamstring injury subside, a physiotherapist can show you how to perform specific exercises designed to improve flexibility and strengthen your hamstring muscles.
Treatment may include electrotherapeutic modalities, recommend crutches or crutch walking training, gentle range of motion exercises, gentle stretching, strengthening exercises and patient education.
The rehabilitation program may vary depending on the severity of your injury. Once you’re pain-free and your range of motion and muscle strength is restored, you’re able to resume your usual activities.
If you’re suffering from hamstring injuries, talk to us. Call Happy Physio at 9272 7359 today. Our Perth physiotherapists can help you return to active lifestyle and enjoy the things you love to do!