About Your Hamstrings
Your hamstrings are a set of three muscles at the back of your thigh. They run from your pelvis to just below your knee and you use them whenever you bend your knees or straighten your hip.
What Causes a Hamstring Injury?
You may hurt your hamstring if you’re doing something that makes it stretch beyond its limits. Injuries range from an overstretched or strained muscle to a partially or severely torn hamstring.
Hamstrings may be injured during activities that involve sudden stops, starts or sprints. If you play sports requiring a high degree of power, speed or agility (like football, tennis, running or dancing), or if you’re not very flexible, then you’re at higher risk of a hamstring injury.
Symptoms of a Torn Hamstring
With a mild strain, you may not notice the injury immediately but may feel some muscle tightness, limited range of motion or pain later on.
Pain is the most obvious symptom of a hamstring tear. When the injury happens, you may feel a sharp, sudden pain in the back of your thigh and it may be hard to put weight on that leg. Within a few hours, you may notice some swelling and tenderness. Some bruising may also develop later.
Listen to your body and stop what you’re doing. If you’ve injured your hamstring, it’s time to hop off the field on your good leg (if you can!).
Treating a Hamstring Injury
Should you apply ice to an injured hamstring? For years, the RICER protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Referral) was recommended for soft tissue injuries and you’ll still find this promoted by groups such as Sports Medicine Australia.
This approach dates back to the 1970s though – and we’ve learnt a lot since then. Icing was recommended to reduce inflammation but we now know that inflammation is a vital part of the healing process. A sore area becomes inflamed because your body is sending more blood there, carrying chemicals, proteins and cells needed to repair the injured tissue. Applying ice is therefore a bit like putting a roadblock in front of an ambulance.
The METH Method is now recommended instead of RICER. This stands for Movement, Elevation, Traction and Heat. It emphasises the benefits of careful movement, elevation to reduce swelling, traction to manage pain and muscle spasms, and heat to encourage therapeutic blood flow.
Minor hamstring strains will usually feel better within a few days. More significant injuries may take weeks or months of rehab to get you back in the game safely. That’s when you’ll benefit from sports physiotherapy services, like those offered here at The Brisbane Spine Clinic.
We work with many patients undertaking rehab after a hamstring tear. During your first sports physio appointment at The Brisbane Spine Clinic, we’ll assess your injury, learn about how it happened and the impact it’s having on your life. We’ll consider your pain levels, discuss your goals for recovery, including returning to sport, then we’ll develop a program of tailored exercises to strengthen your hamstrings so you can return to your usual activities.
Hamstring rehab exercises are usually designed to stretch the muscle and help you regain full range of motion and strength so you can twist, jump, change direction quickly and move speedily – all things you’ll need to do once you return to sport.
Though we understand your eagerness to get back to doing what you love, it’s important not to race through therapy or you’re likely to be vulnerable to another injury in the same area. Give your body time to do the deep work of healing and rebuilding.
We journey alongside you through this, monitoring your progress and celebrating your success. We’ll help you get into good condition for returning to your chosen sport at the right time.
Preventing a Hamstring Injury
Completing rehabilitation after a hamstring injury is one of the best ways of preventing another injury.
But there are other things you can do to prevent injury to your hamstrings, including:
- Stretching to warm up and cool down properly
- Doing some speed training drills so that your hamstrings can cope with sudden bursts of acceleration
- Incorporating stretches and strengthening exercises in your training
- Taking part in pre-season training to get ready for competition
- Wearing suitably supportive footwear
- Allowing enough recovery time between training
- Drinking plenty of water.
If you’d like help to overcome an injured hamstring or support as you return to your favourite sport, then please make an appointment at The Brisbane Spine Clinic today. We’d love to help you.