Hamstrings are a group of tendons and muscles that run along the back of the leg from the pelvis to the shinbone. Their main function is to allow you to bend your knee but they also contribute to the rotation of the lower leg.
It is common for a hamstring injury to happen during an activity that requires you to do a sudden stop and start, like running, football, dancing or tennis. The less flexible you are the more likely you are to have a hamstring injury.
An injury can be severe to minor and early treatment of a hamstring injury can help speed up your recovery and minimise your symptoms.
- Pain when stretching the muscle
- Pain on contracting the muscle against resistance
- A sharp pain during exercise at the back of your thigh
- Finding it difficult to put weight on your leg
- Limited range of motion
- Swelling and tenderness
- Unable to fully straighten the knee
Symptoms you may feel with a hamstring injury
Hamstring injury risk factors
- Poor flexibility
- muscle imbalance such as weak hamstrings & overactive quadriceps,
- Prior hamstring injury
- Not warming up properly before exercising
Diagnosing a hamstring injury
Most hamstring injuries can be diagnosed by your doctor or physiotherapist by the location and the pain you are suffering, as well as the range of movement you have in your leg.
Early diagnosis is vital for a speedy recovery. Your doctor will decide whether or not to send you for an MRI scan and will advise you to start physiotherapy as soon as possible. The most important phase for starting treatment would ideally be within the first 48 hours of the injury.
Hamstring injuries can be graded 1-3 dependant of the severity of the injury.
Grade 1 injury
- You should be able to put weight on your leg but find it uncomfortable to walk
- Some minimal swelling
- Some mild pain when bending your knee
- Some tightness in the back of your thigh
Grade 2 injury
- Feeling of pain during activity
- Some swelling will be present
- You may find you are limping when you walk
- Bending your knee will cause you pain
- You may not be able to straighten your knee fully
Grade 3 injury
- You will not be able to walk well without a walking aid
- Visible swelling
- Severe pain especially when trying to bend your knee
What to expect when I see a physiotherapist?
Depending on the severity of the injury will depend on the treatment plan that you will follow with your sports physiotherapist.
Treatment will include:
- Strengthening exercises to help rebuild the strength of the injured muscle
- Hands on therapy massage to help reduce inappropriate scar adhesions to promote faster healing
- Stretching exercises to encourage full range of movement
- Exercise programme on core stability to help reduce excessive loading of the hamstring muscle
- Looking at your walking gait and correcting any muscle imbalances
- Advice on mobility aids to help take the weight off the injury during your recovery
Your physiotherapist will recommend the RICE method for pain relief during your recovery:
R Rest your leg & minimise weight bearing
I Using ice packs to reduce your inflammation and pain
C Using a compression bandage to help the swelling go down
E Elevate the leg above the heart to help reduce swelling
Is surgery needed?
Most hamstring injuries are completely treatable with the correct physiotherapy programme. If after a few weeks of physiotherapy and rest you find that you are not improving, it will be suggested that you see an orthopaedic surgeon who will advise you if you need a surgical repair or not. Only the most severe hamstring injuries would require surgery.
Contact Home Physio Group to see how our sports physiotherapists can help you with your rehabilitation programme and get you on the road to recovery and help prevent the chance of any re-injury. To speak to a member of our team please call 0330 335 1016.