How to Strengthen Hamstrings to Recover from and Reduce Injury

Jul 23, 2021

How to Strengthen Hamstrings to Recover from and Reduce InjuryOne of the most dreaded things for any athlete is a hamstring strain- unfortunately, the injury is extremely common and can be painful. The hamstring actually refers to a group of three muscles that runs along the back of your thigh, allowing you to bend your knees. When the hamstring is strained, one or more of these muscles is overloaded and can even begin to tear. Even a mild injury to the hamstring can be debilitating, so it is important to seek proper treatment, including physical examinations and physiotherapy. In addition to treating an existing injury, proper care can also help you to prevent future hamstring issues.

Identifying a Hamstring Strain

A mild injury to the hamstring may be only a dull annoyance but can become worse over time without treatment. A serious injury can be extremely painful and may even make it difficult to walk.

Hamstring strains are common injuries among athletes, though a wrong movement or physical activity outside of your normal routine can also cause the issue. Behaviors like exercising without warming up or escalating your routine too quickly can be risk factors.

Symptoms of a hamstring injury include sudden and severe pain during exercise, a snapping or popping feeling in the leg, pain in the back of the thigh or lower buttock when walking, bending, or straightening the leg. Tenderness or bruising can also be present.

In order to diagnose these issues, a doctor or physiotherapist will give a thorough physical exam and discuss your symptoms with you. This is typically sufficient to determine if your hamstring is the problem.

Treatments for a Hamstring Injury

The vast majority of hamstring injuries heal on their own with time and gentle remedies. While much of this care can be done at home, it is always important to consult a medical professional and rule out serious injuries that may require more invasive care.

The general principle of RICE applies to hamstring injuries. This includes:

  • Rest: As much as you can, avoid putting unnecessary weight onto your injured leg. You should not remain immobile indefinitely, but physical activity should be limited, especially in the first few days. Crutches or other aids may be used as part of physiotherapy, though it’s generally important to regain strength in the leg rather than avoiding use altogether.
  • Ice: Every few hours, ice can be applied to the painful area in order to reduce swelling and pain. Be sure not to make direct contact between the ice and the skin and not to keep the ice in place for more than 30 minutes at a time.
  • Compress: To reduce swelling and provide stability, an elastic bandage can be wrapped around the leg. This should provide pressure but not cut off the circulation.
  • Elevate: When sitting or lying down, use a pillow to prop your leg up at or above the level of your heart.

Pain can also be managed using anti-inflammatory painkillers, like NSAIDs and ibuprofen which are available over the counter. While these can help in the short term, you should not rely on pain medication, as they mask symptoms rather than addressing the root cause of the injury. A doctor may provide a prescription for stronger medication as needed, but this should be done under strict supervision.

Exercise is also a crucial piece of recovery. Gently stretching the leg can be important, but it should be done as part of a formal physiotherapy routine. A physiotherapist will design a program that allows you to strengthen the leg muscle and regain mobility without worsening the injury.

Preventing Future Injuries

Hamstring injuries have a high rate of recurrence, especially in athletes who continue to participate in sports or activities that put them at risk. One way to avoid this problem is to properly treat each injury, ensuring a full recovery that does not leave the leg vulnerable. Physiotherapy is often designed specifically to guard against future hamstring strains.

In addition, there are precautions you can take during daily activities to avoid further issues. You should always warm up and stretch before any physical activity, even something mild like walking, and if you plan to increase the activity’s intensity, this should be done slowly. It is recommended not to increase activity by more than 10% per week.

If you feel any pain at all in the back of the thigh, stop exercising immediately and begin treatment as if you have suffered an injury.

Whether you have felt the first twinge of an injury or are suffering painful symptoms, AICA Marietta is here to help. With a range of specialties, from radiology to physiotherapy, our team of professionals will develop a treatment plan designed for your hamstrings today and in the future.