A pulled hamstring or strain is an injury to one or more of the muscles at the back of the thigh. Hamstring muscle injuries occur most frequently in athletes. They are especially common in athletes who participate in sports that require sprinting, such as track, soccer, and basketball.
Several factors can make it more likely you will have a muscle strain, including:
Muscle tightness. Tight muscles are vulnerable to strain. Athletes should follow a year-round program of daily stretching exercises.
Muscle imbalance.When one muscle group is much stronger than its opposing muscle group, the imbalance can lead to a strain. This frequently happens with the hamstring muscles. The quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh are usually more powerful. During high-speed activities, the hamstring may become fatigued faster than the quadriceps. This fatigue can lead to a strain.
Poor conditioning. If your muscles are weak, they are less able to cope with the stress of exercise and are more likely to be injured.
Muscle fatigue. Fatigue reduces the energy-absorbing capabilities of muscle, making them more susceptible to injury.
Those especially at risk:
- Anyone can experience hamstring strain, but those especially at risk are:
- Athletes who participate in sports like football, soccer, basketball
- Runners or sprinters
- Older athletes whose exercise program is primarily walking
- Adolescent athletes who are still growing
- Hamstring strains occur more often in adolescents because bones and muscles do not grow at the same rate. During a growth spurt, a child’s bones may grow faster than the muscles. The growing bone pulls the muscle tight. A sudden jump, stretch, or impact can tear the muscle away from its connection to the bone.
Severity of a Pulled Hamstring
Strains are graded 1, 2 or 3 depending on severity.
Grade 1 consists of minor tears within the muscle. A grade 2 is a partial tear in the muscle and grade 3 is a severe or complete rupture of the muscle.
- May have tightness in the posterior thigh.
- Probably able to walk normally however will be aware of some discomfort.
- Minimal swelling.
- Lying on front and trying to bend the knee against resistance probably won’t produce much pain.
- Over all pain is mild and usually heals readily.
- May require 3 weeks rest from sports
- Gait will be affected – limp may be present.
- May be associated with occasional sudden twinges of pain during activity.
- May notice swelling.
- Pressure increases pain.
- Flexing the knee against resistance causes pain.
- Might be unable to fully straighten the knee.
- May bruise after a few days
- Typically requires 4 to 6 weeks for recovery
- Walking severely affected – may need walking aids such as crutches.
- Severe pain – particularly during activity such as knee flexion.
- Noticeable swelling visible immediately.
- There may be a large lump of muscle tissue above a depression where the tear is.
- A grade three hamstring strain is a severe injury.
- May require an MRI scan to ascertain the amount of damage sustained.
- In severe ruptures surgery may be needed to repair the damage and may require 3-6 months after repair to resume sports
Treatment of a Pulled Hamstring
What can the athlete do?
It is important that treatment for a pulled hamstring starts immediately following injury. The most important phase for treatment is the first 48 hours post-injury. In this time the following can be carried out by the athlete themselves:
- Use Most hamstring strains heal very well with simple, nonsurgical treatment.
RICE. The RICE protocol is effective for most sports-related injuries. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
- Use a compression bandage to minimize intra muscular bleeding.
- Early mobilization of the injured lower limb is vital for the correct rehabilitation of the muscle. This includes stretching and strengthening exercises throughout the pain free range. These can aid with decreasing the swelling in the area. In addition, exercise will ensure that any new material will be laid down in correct orientation thus reducing the risk of subsequent injuries.
Class IV Laser Hamstring Injury Program
The Class IV Laser is at the heart of our treatment program. It provides a safe, effective, non-invasive, painless solution for hamstring pain and injury. Patients respond exceptionally well to treatments and usually notice significant pain relief after just a few treatments. Our program utilizes the latest FDA Cleared Lasers, and combines them with other therapies to help reduce the pain, strengthen the muscles and increase range of motion. Most importantly these treatments help reduce inflammation/swelling, which helps improve overall function.