Hamstring Strains and How to Treat Them
A hamstring becomes strained when one of it’s three muscles becomes overloaded, cramp up or develop tears. These injuries are common among sports involving sprinting, jumping or weightlifting. The hamstring is a hip extensor and plays an important role in control of the knee and hip.
Symptoms of a hamstring injury
Symptoms vary depending on severity of muscle tearing. A grade 1 hamstring injury involves a pull to the muscle that doesn’t involve much damage to the hamstring. This would usually involve a feeling of pulling and tightness in the hamstring with no reduction in strength. A grade 2 injury is a partial tear and may involve some weakness and bruising where 5-50% of the fibres of muscle are torn. This type of tear may also have reduced range of motion. A grade 3 injury is a full tear. In this instance the patient may hear a pop or snap and may fall to the ground in pain. There would also be severe pain, reduced strength and reduced ROM.
Why do hamstring injuries occur?
Hamstring injuries can occur for many reasons. A lack of hamstring mobility plays a key factor in the development of hamstring strains. It can also occur with lack of core or pelvic stability.
The hamstrings are a part of the posterior chain. This means a hamstring injury can cause tightness in the calves, lower back and even the neck. Hamstring injuries are also related to SI joint dysfunction.
If you have a hamstring injury you should do the following:
RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and elevation. Apply Ice for 15 minutes followed by active knee extension every 2 hours for first 48 hours.
Once in the subacute phase of healing, you can begin focusing on improving hamstring strength and mobility. Mobility work can begin 3 days after injury depending on the severity.
Soft tissue treatments including massage therapy, Graston technique, shockwave therapy or acupuncture can be utilized to improve circulation and jump start the healing process.
Core and pelvic strength are important to develop in order to protect the hamstring from re-injury. Light unweighted strength based exercises for the hamstring can be commenced shortly after injury. As the stages of rehabilitation progress, eccentric loading of the hamstrings becomes important.
Before running can be resumed, a walk jog program should first be introduced. This can start as early as 3 days post injury depending on the severity. Sports specific training can start once the patient has no pain with maximum concentric and eccentric hamstring contraction.
With tears, similar to a tear on the skin, the muscle needs a chance to heal and develop scar tissue. Once this phase of healing is complete, physiotherapy, including exercise therapy and mobility training can occur so that the scar tissue can be replaced with healthy muscle.
If you are struggling with a hamstring injury, our team of experts at Kinetic Edge can help. Our registered physiotherapists and chiropractors can assess the injury, and develop a treatment plan. This plan may include a combination of exercise, mobility and soft tissue therapy as well as evaluating underlying causes such as lower back dysfunction, or muscle tightness in the gluts.
By: Joanna Taylor BSc, DC
Owner of Kinetic Edge
Co-Founder of Recover RX