Hamstring injury

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Causes of a hamstring injury

Muscle overload is the leading cause of hamstring muscle strain. It can happen when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity or challenged with a sudden load.

 

Risk of a hamstring injury

There are multiple risk factors for a hamstring injury. Here are some examples: 

  • Muscle tightness. Tight muscles are vulnerable to strain. Doing some stretching exercises before working out can prevent hamstring injury. 

  • Weak muscles. If your muscles are weak, they are more likely to be injured.

  • Muscle fatigue. Fatigue reduces the energy-absorbing capabilities of muscles, making them more susceptible to injury. Exercise is a common cause of muscle fatigue.

  • Prior hamstring injury. This is one of the most significant risk factors for predicting hamstring injury. The insufficient recovery of the initial injury often results in poorer muscle function and reduced capability to sustain a load, making it susceptible to re-injury.
     

Symptoms of hamstrings strain.

If you strain your hamstring, you are likely to feel pain in the back of your thigh. The severity of your hamstring injury determines the level of pain you will feel. There are three grades of hamstring injury. The higher the grade, the more severe the pain. 

  • Grade 1 – a mild muscle pull or strain

  • Grade 2 – a partial muscle tear

  • Grade 3 – a complete muscle tear

Severe strains and tears are often followed by additional symptoms which include: 

  • Swelling at the back of your thigh during the first few hours after injury

  • Bruising or discolouration of the back of your thigh 

  • Weakness in your hamstring muscles that can persist for weeks.

 

When should I seek medical help?

See a GP if you have a severe injury, your symptoms are worsening or if you have any concerns about your injury.

 

Diagnosis

To diagnose a hamstring injury, your doctor will take your case history and any relevant past medical history into account. Then they will perform a physical examination and check your hamstrings for tenderness or bruising. They will also press on the back of your thigh to see if there is any pain, weakness, swelling or a more severe muscle injury. They may request further imaging, like MRI, to assess the degree of injury in your hamstring.

 

Treatment

Treatment of hamstring injuries varies depending on their severity. Most hamstring injuries heal very well with simple treatment as follows: 

  • Rest. Rest your leg for a few days.

  • Ice. Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, every 2-3 hours. 

  • Compression. An elastic bandage can prevent further swelling and bruising. 

  • Elevation. Rest your ankle on a pillow to elevate your leg to reduce swelling. 

  • Immobilization. Your doctor may recommend you wear a splint to keep your leg in a neutral position to help it heal.

  • Physical therapy. Once the initial pain and swelling have improved, physical therapy can begin. Specific exercises can restore your range of motion and strength.

 

Surgery is performed for tendon avulsion injuries, where the tendon has pulled completely away from the bone.