If you’re a sports fan, you are undoubtedly familiar with hamstring injuries. It seems as if athletes are injuring their hamstring muscles (located in the back of the thigh) on a weekly basis. That makes sense, because sports that involve high-speed running such as soccer, football, track, baseball, and basketball are more likely to cause hamstring pulls, strains, and tears. In this article, we’ll answer some of the most common questions surrounding hamstring injuries.
How Does a Torn or Pulled Hamstring Feel?
Hamstring injuries only occur during strenuous physical activity, so if you feel pain in your leg while you’re sitting or walking, odds are it’s not your hamstring. If you’re running and you see or feel any of the following, you probably pulled or tore a hamstring:
- Severe and/or sudden pain, and possibly a snapping or popping feeling in the back of the leg
- Pain in the back of the thigh or lower buttocks area when you’re walking, bending over, or straightening your leg
- Discoloration or bruising on the back of the leg
A hamstring injury occurs when one or more of the three hamstring muscles or tendons is torn, partially or completely. As we mentioned, this generally happens during high-speed running, but a hamstring injury can also occur with sudden starts or changes in direction or during activity in which the muscle is overstretched–hurdling, heavy lifting, and kicking, for example.
This is called “eccentric contraction,” which is when a muscle lengthens as it contracts. For example, when someone is running, the back leg straightens as the toes push off and move forward–this causes the hamstring muscles to overload with body weight, which can lead to an injury.
How Quickly Do Injured Hamstrings Heal?
That all really depends on the severity of the injury to the hamstring. After a thorough exam by a physician, your hamstring injury will likely receive a diagnosis consisting of a grade in the I, II, or III based on severity.
- Grade I: A mild strain with minimal tearing of the muscle; feels like a cramp or pulled muscle.
- Grade II: A moderate strain with partial tearing of the muscle; feels like a burning sensation at the back of the thigh.
- Grade III: The most severe injury, which is a complete muscle tear; there may be a lump on the back of the thigh where the muscle tore.
A Grade I strain or tear may keep you off your feet for a few days or a week. A Grade II hamstring injury could sideline you for a few weeks or more. A severe, Grade III hamstring tear may require surgery and months of healing and rehab before you’re ready to resume regular activity.
Can Physical Therapy Help Pulled Hamstrings?
Absolutely! But it’s important to rest the injury first. You may need to use ice to minimize swelling, and your doctor may recommend a compression sleeve or a knee splint to keep your leg in the optimal position.
After sufficient rest, physical therapy is an effective way to fully recover from your injury. Your treatment will depend on your injury, but you and your physical therapist here at Physical Therapy NOW will create a personalized plan to fit you. This may consist of:
- Manual therapy: Muscle manipulation and movement through gentle massage can help improve flexibility, motion, and strength.
- Strengthening exercises: Making the hamstring stronger is at the foundation of your injury rehab. To do this, your physical therapist will walk you through specific exercises that you can do in your own home as you recover.
- Range-of-motion exercises: When your physical therapist determines that it is safe to begin stretching your hamstring muscles, you’ll perform gentle flexibility exercises to improve range of motion in the leg.
- Functional training: Once you’ve strengthened your hamstrings, your movement will be monitored to ensure you’re not adding extra stress to the injured area. Your PT will create a functional training program designed to gradually get you back to more physically demanding tasks and activities.
If your hamstring injury required surgery, your physical therapist will work with you and your doctor to put together a post-operative rehabilitation plan, as you’ll most definitely require rehab to get back on your feet again.
PT for Hamstring Tears and Pulls in Irving, TX
When you’re ready to get to work, come see us at Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, Texas. Our highly trained team is here to get you feeling great again through expert physical therapy and friendly care. Hamstring injuries may be painful and inconvenient, but Physical Therapy NOW can help you get back on your feet and on the road to recovery. Call us today at (214) 225-0291 and come see us at our convenient Irving location!