A hamstring injury occurs when one or more of the three hamstring muscles or tendons (a type of soft tissue connecting the muscle to the bone) tear. It is one of the most common injuries of the lower body, particularly affecting athletes participating in sports such as football, soccer, or track. After tearing a hamstring muscle, a person is two to six times more likely to suffer a subsequent injury. Surgery is required to treat the most severe cases. However, in most cases, hamstring injuries are managed with physical therapy and our staff at Progressive Physical Therapy has the expertise to help you prevent an injury or offer rehabilitative treatments if needed.
The hamstrings make up the primary muscle group responsible for straightening (extending) the hip and bending (flexing) the knee. It includes a group of 3 muscles along the back of the thigh that connect the pelvis to the leg. The three muscles are the:
- Biceps femoris
- Hamstring injuries occur when excessive force is placed across the muscles. This typically happens during sudden starts or stops when running, a rapid change of direction with “cutting” or jumping maneuvers, or when the muscle is overstretched by activities such as sprinting, hurdling, kicking, or heavy lifting.The common structures involved in hamstring injuries are:
- Hamstring muscle(s) and/or tendon (a type of soft tissue that connects muscle to bone)
- Bursa (a fluid-filled sack that sits between bones and soft tissues to limit friction), usually irritated with recurring hamstring injuries
- Ischial tuberosity (the “sit-bone”), which in rare cases can be fractured by traumatic injury
Risk factors for hamstring injuries include:
- A history of prior hamstring injury
- Muscle imbalances (particularly hamstring weakness)
- Poor flexibility (muscle tightness)
- Inadequate warm-up before activity
- Muscle fatigue
Your physical therapist at Progressive Physical Therapy will design an individualized treatment program specific to the exact nature of your injury and your goals.
The First 24-48 hours
Physical therapy may include:
- Resting the injured area by avoiding aggravating activities, such as walking or working out. If you are having notable difficulty walking, crutches may be recommended.
- Applying ice to the injured area 3-4x/day for 15-20 minutes (with a towel placed between your skin and the ice).
- Applying a compression wrap to the area to aid in decreasing swelling and pain.
- Referral to another health care provider for further diagnostic testing (if needed).
Range of motion
It is common for muscles and joints to become stiff after an injury. As your pain decreases, your physical therapist will begin gentle flexibility exercises, such as stretching your hamstring muscles.
Hamstring strengthening will be an essential part of your rehabilitation program. Your physical therapist will compare the strength of the muscle groups in each leg, and prescribe specific exercises to target areas of weakness.
Many physical therapists are trained in hands-on “manual” therapy to move and manipulate muscles and joints to improve motion, flexibility, and strength. These techniques can target areas that are difficult to treat on your own.
As you regain the flexibility and strength in your hamstrings, it will be important to teach your body how to move so you no longer put excessive stress on the previously injured area. Your physical therapist will develop a functional training program specific to your desired activity.
In the event that the severity of your hamstring injury requires surgical treatment, a physical therapist will guide your postoperative rehabilitation. Your physical therapist will communicate with your surgeon to ensure complete and consistent postoperative care.