A hamstring injury occurs when you strain or pull one of your hamstring muscles — the group of muscles that run along the back of your thigh. With a hamstring injury, you might also experience a partial or complete muscle tear.
You may be more likely to get a hamstring injury if you play soccer, basketball, football, tennis or a similar sport that involves sprinting with sudden stops and starts. A hamstring injury can occur in runners and in dancers as well.
Although a hamstring injury generally means you'll have some downtime, self-care measures such as rest, ice and over-the-counter pain medications are often all you need to relieve pain and swelling. Rarely, surgery may be needed to correct a torn muscle.
Signs and symptoms of a hamstring injury include:
When to see a doctor
The hamstring muscles are a group of three muscles that run along the back of your thigh from your hip to just below your knee. These muscles make it possible to extend your leg straight behind your body and to bend your knee.
When any one of these muscles stretches beyond its limit during physical activity, injury can result.
Your chance of injuring a hamstring depends partly on your activities and partly on your physical characteristics. Some possible risk factors include:
Complications of hamstring injury may include:
Preparing for your appointment
While you may initially consult your family physician, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in musculoskeletal medicine, sports medicine or orthopedic surgery.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
During evaluation of your injury, you doctor may:
Treatments and drugs
A hamstring injury may be:
Severe injuries involving torn hamstring muscles may, in rare cases, require surgery. If needed, surgery is performed by an orthopedic surgeon.
Your doctor or a physical therapist can set up an exercise schedule and show you how to perform specific exercises designed to rehabilitate your hamstring muscles. You may gradually increase the intensity level of the exercises as you regain strength and mobility. How long you'll continue these exercises depends on how severe your injury is, but standard rehabilitation exercise programs may last for several weeks, at least. A mild to moderate injury may take up to six weeks to heal; severe injuries can take several months to heal.
Rehabilitation exercises may be especially important for protecting your hamstring muscles from re-injury after you get back to your normal activity level.
Lifestyle and home remedies
For immediate self-care of a hamstring injury, try the R.I.C.E. approach — rest, ice, compression, elevation. If your injury is worse than a minor muscle strain, you'll want your doctor and physical therapist to help you with this process:
Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) also can be helpful.
After a few days, gently begin to use the injured leg. You should notice a gradual, progressive improvement in your leg's ability to support your weight and your ability to move without pain.
As part of an overall physical conditioning program, regular stretching and strengthening exercises can help to minimize your risk of hamstring injury. Try to be in shape to play your sport; don't play your sport to get in shape. If you have a physically demanding occupation, regular conditioning can help prevent injuries. Ask your doctor about appropriate conditioning exercises.
Last Updated: 2010-06-08
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