What Causes Hamstring Pain and How’s It Treated?
What are hamstring muscles?
Aches and pains on the back of your legs may be a sign of a hamstring injury. Your hamstring is a group of muscles located on the back of your thighs. Strain in these muscles is relatively common, especially in people who play sports that involve sprinting, like soccer, basketball, or track.
What causes hamstring pain?
he main cause of injury to the hamstring is muscle overload. Strains and tears happen when the muscle is lengthening as it contracts or shortens. They may also happen if the muscle is stretched too far or is taxed too suddenly.
When you sprint, for example, your hamstring muscles must contract repeatedly as your leg lengthens with your stride. All this lengthening and loading of the muscles creates a perfect environment for injury. You may feel anything from sudden pain, to a popping or snapping feeling in your leg. Your hamstring may feel tender and you might even see bruising at the site of your injury.
There are several risk factors for hamstring strain:
- Exercising with tight muscles. Athletes who have particularly tight muscles may be more likely to experience injury.
- Muscle imbalances, where certain muscles are stronger than others.
- Poor conditioning. If the muscles are weak, they’ll be less able to deal with the demands of certain sports or exercises.
- Fatigue in the muscles, because tired muscles don’t absorb as much energy.
Who are at risk?
- Hamstring strain is commonly seen in people who participate in the following activities:
- Football, soccer, basketball, tennis, running and sprinting, and other track events, dancing
- Older athletes who walk as their primary form of exercise are also at higher risk. So are adolescents whose bodies are still growing. Muscles and bones don’t necessarily grow at the same rate. This means that any force or stress to the muscles, like a jump or impact, may leave them vulnerable to tearing.
What can I do if I get hamstring pain?
If you feel sudden pain in your hamstring, stop what you’re doing to prevent more damage. You may have heard the acronym RICE before. It may help you get better, faster.
RICE stands for:
- Avoid doing activities that may aggravate your injury. This may mean totally resting or even using crutches or another mobility aid.
- Use a cold pack for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day. You may even use something like frozen peas wrapped in a light towel. Don’t apply ice directly to skin.
- Consider bandaging your thigh with an elastic wrap to limit swelling and movement.
- Try to keep your leg propped up on a pillow to limit swelling.
- Physical therapy (PT) is another option you may try after your swelling has gone down. In PT, you’ll do different exercises meant to build up your muscles’ range of motion, flexibility, and strength.
When should I seek help?
Many hamstring injuries respond well to home treatment and heal within a few days. If your pain isn’t going away or your symptoms are getting worse, it’s a good idea to call your doctor to set up an appointment. In severe cases, your hamstring injury may require surgery and several months of rest and physical therapy.
How can I prevent hamstring injuries?
- Warm up before working out or playing sports, and cool down afterward.
- Exercise regularly to maintain your cardiovascular and muscular fitness. Doing so will help you prevent injuries related to fatigue.
- Spend time stretching and strengthening muscles in your weekly exercise routine. Doing so will help prevent muscular imbalances that may cause injury.
- Take days off or have easy days between particularly hard physical sessions to give your body adequate rest.
- Try adding speed work to your routine to prepare hamstring muscles for the types of forces that may lead to injury.
- Foam roller is something underutilized in Kenya, can be used to stretch those tight muscles