Hamstring Strains: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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Did you know hamstring strains are some of the most significant injuries that you can have while participating in sports?

If you have a hamstring strain, it’s important to slow down and take the steps you need to recover fully. Hamstring injuries that don’t heal properly can have lasting effects.

Keep reading this hamstring strain guide to learn everything you need to know about hamstring strains and what you can do to get back to your routine.

What Are Hamstring Strains?

Hamstring muscles are three muscles that are located along the back of your thigh and extend from your hip to just below your knee. A hamstring strain occurs when you strain or pull one or more of these muscles.

A hamstring strain can be a mild strain or a severe strain where the muscles actually tear. Hamstring strains are graded on their severity and are placed into three categories which include:

Grade 1 Mild Hamstring Strain

A grade 1 strain is a mild strain which is when you pull your hamstring muscle and overstretch it, but there are no tears or other damage to your hamstring.

Grade 2 Hamstring Tear

A grade 2 hamstring tear is when you partially tear your hamstring. The muscle hasn’t fully ripped, but your leg will feel weak and unstable.

Grade 3 Hamstring Tear

A grade 3 hamstring tear is the most severe type of hamstring tear you can have. The hamstring muscle is completely ripped off the bone, also known as an avulsion injury.

Hamstring Strain Causes

Hamstring strains typically occur during physical activity where you stretch the muscles beyond their limit. Other causes include:

Participating in contact sports like football or hockey, or sports that require running or sprinting can make a hamstring strain more likely. If you’ve had a hamstring injury in the past you’re more likely to strain your hamstring again, especially if you haven’t given your previous injury enough time to heal.

Being out of shape and having poor muscle flexibility can cause a hamstring strain. Also, if you have a muscle imbalance where the muscles along the front of the thigh are more developed than your hamstrings, you can more easily cause a hamstring strain.

Hamstring Strain Symptoms

The symptoms of a hamstring strain depend on how severe your strain is. A mild hamstring strain won’t cause too much pain, but more severe strains can cause symptoms such as:

  • A sudden and sharp pain
  • A popping sensation during the initial injury
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Weakness in your leg
  • The inability to put any weight on your leg

If your pain is severe and you can’t bear weight on your leg, you should see your doctor as soon as possible for an examination.

Hamstring Strain Diagnosis

When you see your doctor, you’ll get a physical exam to check for swelling, bruising, and tenderness. Your doctor will also assess how severe your pain is and how difficult it is for you to walk normally.

You might need to have an x-ray to make sure you didn’t fracture or injure your bone in any way. For severe hamstring strains where the muscle is torn, you’ll need to have an MRI to visualize the size and location of the tear.

Hamstring Strain Treatments

The treatment of your hamstring strain depends on how severe your injury is. For mild strains, your doctor will recommend you do treatments at home.

You’ll first need to take a break from physical activity to give your hamstring a chance to heal. For swelling, you can wrap your thigh with an elastic bandage and ice the area for no longer than 20 minutes at a time throughout the day.

Elevate your leg during the day and make sure to place it higher than your heart using pillows or blankets. It’s also best to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen for at least a week following your injury.

Physical Therapy

You may also need physical therapy after your hamstring strain has had time to heal. Your physical therapist will design a plan to improve your strength and flexibility over time.

Platelet-rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)

Platelet-rich plasma therapy is a safe and effective regenerative medicine treatment that stimulates your body to heal itself.

PRP treatments are a fantastic option to treat hamstring injuries that don’t completely respond to home treatments or physical therapy alone. PRP treatments are a great additional treatment to go along with your physical therapy sessions or to continue healing after surgery.

Platelets are essential for the blood clotting process and help you to stop bleeding when you cut yourself. Platelets also contain growth factors that trigger cells and tissue to regenerate.

You will have a blood sample taken from your arm and spun in a centrifuge. A centrifuge spins your blood at a high speed which separates the platelets from other blood components.

Once it’s separated, it’s injected into the specific areas you need to treat. The entire procedure takes around 30 minutes, and there is no recovery time needed afterward.

Surgery

If your strain is severe and you have a significant tear, therapy and treatments alone may not be enough to heal the injury. Hamstring surgery involves a surgeon moving the muscles and putting them back into the correct position by stitching them to the bone. It can take three months or longer to heal after surgery.

Hamstring Strain Tips

Once you’ve had a hamstring strain, it’s important to take extra care to prevent re-injuring your hamstring once you return to your regular routine. Some tips you can follow include:

  • Stretch out your hamstring well before and after activities
  • Make sure to rest for a few days after strenuous physical exercise
  • Stay hydrated during exercise periods
  • Do leg squats and lunges regularly as they use both the hamstrings and quadriceps

You can also consider taking up yoga or pilates to further improve your strength and flexibility.

Take Care of Your Hamstring Strain Today

Hamstring strains can take time to heal, and even once it’s healed you’re still at a higher risk for re-injury. Why not help it along and try regenerative medicine treatments?

It’s time to see the professionals at RejuvenateYourHealth for your platelet-rich plasma treatments. Dr. Barry Ruht is board certified in orthopedic surgery and also specializes in PRP therapy.

We are committed to your recovery and aim to get you back to living your life the best way possible. Make sure to contact us today to schedule an appointment!