Pulled hamstrings are a typical injury among athletes, particularly those who take part in sports that demand sprints like tennis, athletics, and football. Therefore, pulled hamstring treatment is much sought after.
Injury to one or more of the muscles situated behind the thigh is known as a pulled hamstring or strain. Fortunately, most hamstring injuries can be treated successfully with simple, non-surgical measures.
Anatomy of the Hamstring Muscles
The hamstring muscle is a group of three muscles that run along the back of the thigh. They are the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. The hamstrings are responsible for flexing the knee and extending the hip.
The biceps femoris is the largest of the three hamstring muscles. It has two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head originates on the ischial tuberosity, which is a bony protrusion on the pelvis. The short head originates on the linea aspera, which is a ridge on the thigh bone. The biceps femoris inserts on the head of the fibula, which is a bone in the lower leg.
The semitendinosus is the middle hamstring muscle. It originates on the ischial tuberosity and inserts on the medial tibial condyle, which is a bony prominence on the inner knee.
The semimembranosus is the smallest hamstring muscle. It originates on the ischial tuberosity and inserts on the medial tibial condyle and the posteromedial surface of the tibia.
The hamstrings are innervated by the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve branches into the tibial nerve and the common peroneal nerve. The tibial nerve innervates the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and long head of the biceps femoris. The common peroneal nerve innervates the short head of the biceps femoris.
Preventing Hamstring Injuries
Hamstring injuries are common in athletes, especially those who participate in sports that involve sprinting, jumping, and sudden changes in direction. Hamstring injuries can range from mild strains to complete tears. Treatment for hamstring injuries typically involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.
Here are some tips for preventing hamstring injuries:
- Warm up before exercising.
- Stretch your hamstrings regularly.
- Avoid sudden changes in direction.
- Wear proper footwear.
- Listen to your body and rest when you need to.
Explanation of Hamstring Injury
An injury to the hamstrings can range from a slight pull to a full tear.
The intensity of muscle strains is categorized into grades. Grade 1 is considered to be mild and heals quickly, whereas grade 3 is a total tear of the muscle that can take a significant amount of time to heal.
Hamstring injuries usually take place in the dense, midsection of the muscle or at the point where the muscle fibers merge with the tendon fibers.
The most serious hamstring injuries involve a complete rupture of the tendon from the bone, with the possibility that a fragment of bone might even be pulled away in the process; this is known as an avulsion injury.
Maximizing Muscular Strength
Muscle training that involves imposing increased demands on the body’s muscles is referred to as muscle overload. This approach requires gradually increasing the intensity of the exercise in order to achieve greater muscle strength. In order to maximize the effects of muscle overload, it is important to make sure that the intensity and duration of the exercises are within the safe limits of the body.
Hamstring strain is typically the result of muscle overload. This occurs when the muscle is stretched further than its limits or is suddenly subjected to a heavy burden.
The hamstring muscles are prone to injuries when they are put in a situation where they are elongating while simultaneously contracting. This is known as an “eccentric contraction” and is likely to happen when a muscle is being weighed down while it is being extended.
For example, when running at full speed, the hamstring muscles are stretched and strained as the hind leg propels the sprinter forward.
As the back leg is stretched and the toes are used to propel the body ahead, the hamstring muscles contract eccentrically during the sprint. At this moment in the stride, the hamstring muscles not only elongate, but they are also loaded with the weight of the body as well as the energy needed to continue forward.
Hamstring tendon avulsions, similar to strains, are the result of heavy, abrupt forces.
It is possible to increase the chances of muscle strain by several factors, such as:
Muscle tension. Muscles that are not relaxed are prone to injury. It is recommended for athletes to adopt a year-round practice of doing stretching exercises on a daily basis.
Muscle exhaustion. Exhaustion decreases the capacity of muscle to absorb energy, making them more vulnerable to harm.
Muscular disparities. An imbalance between opposing muscle groups can easily lead to a strain. This is especially common with the hamstring muscles, as the quadriceps muscles situated at the front of the thigh are normally more powerful. When engaging in fast-paced activities, the hamstring might tire more quickly than the quadriceps, which can result in a strain.
Weak muscles can increase one’s risk of injury due to their inability to handle the strain of physical activity.
A potential risk factor for hamstring strain is engaging in activities that require a lot of running or jumping. Anyone can be affected by this, yet individuals who participate in activities that involve strenuous leg movements are particularly vulnerable.
Indications of a Hamstring Problem
Hamstring injuries are common in athletes and sportsmen, especially those who participate in activities that require sudden, powerful movements, such as sprinting, lunging, or jumping. When these muscles are injured, it can cause a sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh.
Here are some of the indications of a hamstring injury:
- Sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh. This is the most common symptom of a hamstring injury. The pain may be accompanied by a popping or tearing sensation.
- Swelling and tenderness in the back of the thigh. Swelling and tenderness usually develop within a few hours of the injury.
- Bruising or a change in skin color along the back of the leg. Bruising may not occur immediately after the injury, but it can develop within a few days.
- Weakness or inability to put weight on the injured leg. In more severe cases, the person may not be able to put weight on the injured leg at all.
- Loss of range of motion in the knee or hip. The person may not be able to fully extend the knee or flex the hip.
Diagnosing a Hamstring Injury
There are various methods to diagnose a hamstring injury. The most common methods include:
- Physical examination: The doctor will examine the injured area for swelling, tenderness, and bruising. They may also perform a series of tests to assess the range of motion and strength of the hamstring muscles.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasound, or MRI can help to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the injury. X-rays can be used to rule out a bone fracture, while ultrasound and MRI can provide more detailed images of the hamstring muscles and tendons.
- Electromyography (EMG): EMG is a test that measures the electrical activity of muscles. It can be used to assess the function of the hamstring muscles and to diagnose nerve damage.
The type of test that is used will depend on the severity of the injury and the doctor’s clinical judgment. In most cases, a physical examination and imaging tests are sufficient to diagnose a hamstring injury. However, EMG may be necessary in some cases to rule out nerve damage.
Here are some of the most common hamstring injuries and their symptoms:
- Grade 1 hamstring strain: This is a mild injury that causes pain and tenderness in the back of the thigh. There is no loss of muscle function.
- Grade 2 hamstring strain: This is a moderate injury that causes more pain and tenderness than a grade 1 strain. There may be some loss of muscle function.
- Grade 3 hamstring strain: This is a severe injury that causes severe pain and tenderness in the back of the thigh. There is a significant loss of muscle function.
Treating a Hamstring Injury
The treatment for a hamstring injury will depend on the severity of the injury. Mild injuries can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). More severe injuries may require physical therapy or surgery.
RICE therapy is a first-line treatment for all grades of hamstring injuries. It involves:
- Rest: Avoid activities that put stress on the hamstring muscle.
- Ice: Apply ice to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
- Compression: Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage or compression sleeve.
- Elevation: Keep the injured leg elevated above the level of the heart, if possible.
Physical therapy may be recommended for moderate to severe hamstring injuries. Physical therapy can help to improve range of motion, strength, and flexibility in the hamstring muscles.
Surgery is rarely necessary for hamstring injuries. Surgery may be considered for severe injuries that do not respond to other treatments.
The recovery time for a hamstring injury will vary depending on the severity of the injury. Mild injuries can usually heal within a few weeks. Moderate injuries may take several weeks to heal. Severe injuries may take several months to heal.
Speeding up Recovery from a Hamstring Injury
Here are some tips to help speed up the recovery from a hamstring injury:
- Listen to your body: Don’t push yourself too hard too soon.
- Stretch regularly: Stretch your hamstring muscles regularly, but avoid stretching the injured area until it is fully healed.
- Strengthen your hamstring muscles: Once the injured area is healed, start strengthening your hamstring muscles with exercises that are appropriate for your fitness level.
- Wear proper footwear: Wear shoes that provide good support and stability.
- Warm up properly before exercise: Warm up your hamstring muscles before exercise by doing some light stretching and dynamic exercises.
- Cool down properly after exercise: Cool down your hamstring muscles after exercise by doing some light stretching and static exercises.
If you have a hamstring injury, it is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment plan. With proper care, most hamstring injuries will heal completely.
Pulled Hamstring Treatment – Alternative Options
1. Massage therapy. Massage can help reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, and relax tight muscles. It can also relieve pain and stiffness, and promote healing. You can get a professional massage from a therapist who specializes in sports injuries, or you can use a foam roller or a massage ball to self-massage your hamstring at home. Just be gentle and avoid putting too much pressure on the injured area.
2. Acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of energy or chi. Some studies have shown that acupuncture can help reduce pain and inflammation, and improve muscle function in people with hamstring injuries. Acupuncture is generally safe and well-tolerated, but you should make sure to find a qualified and licensed practitioner who has experience with sports injuries.
3. Stretching and strengthening exercises. Stretching and strengthening your hamstring and the surrounding muscles can help prevent further injury and improve your flexibility and range of motion. You should start with gentle stretches and gradually increase the intensity and duration as your pain subsides. You can also do some low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, or yoga to keep your muscles active and strong. Avoid any activities that cause pain or discomfort, and listen to your body’s signals.
4. Supplements and herbs. Some supplements and herbs may help speed up your recovery and reduce inflammation and pain. For example, turmeric, ginger, bromelain, arnica, and omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. However, you should be careful about the dosage, quality, and interactions of these products, and always check with your doctor before taking them.
5. Heat therapy. Heat therapy can help relax your muscles and increase blood flow to the injured area. You can use a heating pad, a hot water bottle, a warm bath, or a sauna to apply heat to your hamstring. However, you should avoid heat therapy if you have any signs of infection, swelling, or bleeding, or if you have diabetes or poor circulation. You should also limit the duration of heat therapy to 15-20 minutes at a time, and wait at least 48 hours after the injury before applying heat.
New Developments in Treating Hamstring Injuries
- A new study published in May 2023 found that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections can accelerate the healing of hamstring injuries and reduce the risk of recurrence. PRP is a blood product that contains a high concentration of growth factors and other substances that promote tissue repair. This methodology consists of extracting a patient’s own blood, concentrating it, and then reintroducing it into the same individual. This technique has been used to treat a variety of medical conditions.he study involved 60 athletes with acute hamstring injuries who received either PRP injections or a placebo. The results showed that the PRP group had faster recovery times, lower pain scores, and better functional outcomes than the placebo group.
- A new device called Hamstring Saver has been developed by a team of engineers and physiotherapists to help prevent and treat hamstring injuries. The device is a wearable sleeve that applies controlled compression and vibration to the injured muscle. The device is designed to stimulate blood flow, reduce inflammation, and enhance muscle recovery. The device can be used before, during, and after exercise to reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.
- A new technique called hamstring autograft reconstruction has been proposed as a surgical option for patients with chronic or recurrent hamstring injuries. The technique involves harvesting a portion of the patient’s own hamstring tendon and using it to repair the damaged tendon. The technique aims to restore the normal anatomy and function of the hamstring muscle and prevent further injury. The technique has been successfully performed in a few cases, but more research is needed to evaluate its long-term outcomes and complications.
- Overview Hamstring Injuries & Treatments | Sports Medicine. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_hamstring-injuries.asp
- Hamstring injury – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hamstring-injury/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20372990
- Diagnosis of Hamstring injury and what are its different treatment options?. https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/condition/Hamstring-injury/hp-Hamstring-injury Accessed
- Hamstring injury – NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hamstring-injury/