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What is a Hamstring Strain & How to Recover From It?

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What is a Hamstring Strain & How to Recover From It?
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Have you ever had one of those days when everything goes wrong? You know, the kind where you trip over your own feet and break your glasses, or when you spill coffee all down your white shirt right before an important meeting?

Well, I'm here to tell you that those days are nothing compared to experiencing a hamstring strain.

A hamstring strain is a relatively common injury that can sideline even the most active person for weeks. So what is a hamstring strain, and how do you recover from one? Keep reading to find out!

What is a Hamstring Strain?

A hamstring injury is a tricky tear or strain in the muscles at the back of your thigh that can stop any athlete’s game cold. It's one of the most common injuries and often doesn't heal quickly, leaving its victims troubled on the field. Here are the causes of hamstring strain to help you avoid these movements for painless activities.

Not Warming Up

Not warming up before exercising or performing physical activity can cause hamstring strain. This is because the muscles are tight, and tight muscles get strained more than the flexible muscles that are properly warmed up before physical activity.

Being Out of Shape

Bodies that are out of shape cannot handle the tension of tough exercises. The muscles cannot absorb the energy that comes with challenging exercises. This increases the chances of injuries.

Imbalance in the Legs

Quadriceps are the muscles in the front of the legs that are larger and more powerful than any other muscle. A physical activity that involves running can cause the hamstring muscle to get tired more rapidly than the quadriceps and form a strain.

Improper Techniques

The hamstring can get stressed and strained if the running technique is not followed correctly. The incorrect techniques can cause painful strain injury.

Returning Quickly to Physical Activities

The hamstring can get more injured if you return to physical activities immediately after recovery. Hamstring strains need a lot of time to heal and fully recover, so it's better to wait for a considerable time, as advised by your doctor, and then start the activities.

What are the Symptoms?

Hamstring strain is one of the most common injuries suffered by athletes. The symptoms of a hamstring strain can range from a mild, dull ache to complete muscle rupture. There are certain levels of injury that may feel like the following:

Strain

A strain is a sudden pain that pumps from the back of your thigh. The strength of your leg won’t be lost, but there will be difficulty in moving the leg.

Partial Tear

The partial tear is more painful than the strain. This will induce swelling, bruising, weakness, and leg strength loss.

Severe Tear

This is the final and the most painful level of tear. The severe tear involves terrible pain, tenderness, swelling and bruising. This may also produce a popping feeling when the injury takes place.

What's the Treatment for a Hamstring Strain?

The treatment of hamstring strain usually depends on the level of injury. Minor and moderate injuries heal independently, though there are ways to speed up the healing. For quicker healing, try these treatments,

Avoid Moving Your Leg in Ranges That Cause Pain

Do not move the leg excessively, and in ranges that cause pain. It is still important to move the leg in pain-free motions so that you can create more blood flow to the affected area. More blood flow will accelerate the healing process. Consult your doctor or physical therapist if needed.

Apply Heat to Your Leg

Ensure that you apply heat to your leg to reduce the pain and swelling. Try using a heating pad to the leg every three to four hours and do this consistently for 20-30 minutes until the pain disappears.

Use an Elastic Bandage

Use an elastic bandage around the leg to minimize the swelling and compress it for best.

Elevate Your Leg Using a Pillow

Keep the leg on a pillow when sitting or lying down.

Take Anti-Inflammatory Painkillers

Take anti-inflammatory painkillers for the injury. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), reduce pain and swelling.

These drugs have some side effects, like excessive bleeding and ulcers. With your doctor's recommendation, these should only be used for a short time.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Make sure you perform stretching and strengthening exercises if your doctor recommends them. Strengthening your hamstrings is a way to protect your leg from strain.

Surgery

You may require surgery if the injury is severe and the muscle is torn. The surgeon will repair the muscle, and you will soon be in recovery.

Hamstring Strain Prevention

Hamstring Strain can be prevented with several factors to help you stay fit, active, and engaged in your regular activities. Here are some tips to prevent hamstring strains,

  • Warm up before exercise or any physical activity you perform and stretch after the activity.
  • Boost the intensity of your exercise or physical activity slowly but not more than a 10% weekly increase.
  • Stop exercising if you feel pain in the back of your thigh.
  • Make sure you stretch and strengthen your hamstrings as a precautionary measure.

Follow these tips and protect yourself from the painful injury of the hamstring that keeps many awake at night.

FAQs

1. How to quickly heal a hamstring strain?

First, it's important to rest the injured area as much as possible. This means avoiding activities that aggravate the injury, such as running or walking. Second, heat and ice the area for 20 minutes three to four times daily to reduce inflammation and pain.

Third, take anti-inflammatory medication if recommended by your doctor. And fourth, engage in gentle stretching and strengthening exercises once the pain has subsided.

2. What is the treatment for grade 1 hamstring strain?

Rest is always the first line of treatment for any injury. But with a grade 1 hamstring strain, you may only need to take it easy for a few days before you can resume your normal activity level.

However, if the pain is severe or stays, it's important to see a doctor or physiotherapist. They will likely recommend ice, compression, and/or elevation to help reduce inflammation.

3. What is the difference between a pulled hamstring and torn hamstring?

A pulled hamstring results from overstretching the muscle, while a torn hamstring results from an actual tear in the muscle tissue.

4. What is the treatment for pulled hamstring?

Treatment for a pulled hamstring includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Sometimes, you may also need to take over-the-counter pain medications or participate in physical therapy.

The Bottom Line

A hamstring injury can put a damper on any athlete's game. It is often a slow and painful process to heal fully from this type of strain or tear. However, with proper rest, rehabilitation and treatment, you can be back on the field and enjoy playing, exercising, and participating in physical activities in no time.

Reading List

Article Sources

  • Chu, Samuel K., and Monica E. Rho. ‘Hamstring Injuries in the Athlete: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Return to Play’. Current Sports Medicine Reports, vol. 15, no. 3, 2016, pp. 184–90. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1249/JSR.0000000000000264.
  • Hamilton, Bruce. ‘Hamstring Muscle Strain Injuries: What Can We Learn from History?’ British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 46, no. 13, Oct. 2012, pp. 900–03. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2012-090931.

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