If you play high-intensity sports, such as sprinting or rugby, you’ve likely experienced some form of a hamstring injury. They’re often described as a sharp, sudden pain in the back of your thigh followed by swelling and tenderness within a few hours.
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles in the back of the thigh. Their primary roles are to bend the knee, extend the hip, and control the swing of your lower leg (tibia) during walking and running. Injuries like strains or tears occur when these muscle fibres are overstretched or torn.
When, and how do hamstring injuries happen?
Hamstring strains commonly occur when the hamstring muscle is under a lot of tension and commonly occur in high-intensity sports. A sharp, immediate pain is often felt in the back of the thigh which can make walking painful and difficult.
There are several factors that may increase your risk of getting a hamstring tear, such as:
- Decreased hamstring strength
- A muscle imbalance between the hamstrings and the quadriceps (the muscles in the front of the thigh)
- And poor hip strength.
Working on safely strengthening these areas can help reduce the risk of sitting on the bench for weeks with a hamstring injury.
What should I do to help my hamstring injury recover quickly?
Right away: 0-72 hours after injury – you should reduce excessive inflammation by following the RICED rule:
- Rest your leg by reducing your activity as much as possible for the first 72 hours.
- Ice the injured area for 20mins every two hours. Wrap ice in a damp cloth to prevent ice burn.
- Compress – use a compression bandage or tubigrip over your thigh.
- Elevate your leg to help reduce swelling – sit or lie down with your foot up on a support.
- Diagnose – seek an accurate diagnosis and advice from a physiotherapist or your GP.
Physiotherapy can help you get back on the field quicker and safer. Your physio will be able to properly diagnose your injury and work on a personalized plan to return you to normal levels of activity. They’ll focus on:
- Restoring flexibility, decreasing pain and any swelling
- You will be given stretches and strengthening exercises to correct muscles that are tight or weak.
- Depending on the degree of your injury your physiotherapist will advise you on the progression of loading and return to physical activities.
How long will it take for my hamstring to recover?
It’s natural to want to get back to normal as fast as possible. “How long will it take?” does depend on you, the situation, and the severity of your injury. In some cases you can return to sport or work within 2 weeks, in severe cases it can be 3 months. We’ve put together a guideline of expectations for you.
|Grade||Symptoms||What happens to the muscle||Return to Sport/ Work|
|1.||A sensation of tightness.
Minimal swelling. Minimal pain with stretch or contraction.
Walking is not affected. Running affected
|Strain or micro-tears in the muscle fibres||2-3 weeks|
Pain on stretch or contraction.
Possible limp and unable to run
|Partial tear of the muscle fibres||4-8 weeks|
|3.||Immediate swelling/bruising present.
Intense pain – increasing with activity.
Walking is severely affected.
Unable to run
|Complete rupture/tear in the muscle||3 months
Surgery rarely required
Consult your physiotherapist if you are unsure about when to return to sport or other activities.
If you want to know more about how Proactive 4 Health can help with your rehabilitation, Book your appointment today or give us a call. We’ll help you get things moving how they should, faster and safer.