Hamstring strains happen when any of the large muscles or its tendons at the back of your leg is stretched beyond what it can withstand. Strains of your hamstring can be very painful and are fairly common in sports activities requiring the athlete to forcefully accelerate, such as running, football, rugby and basketball. As I Chiropractor I see this type of injury very often.
So what is a hamstring you may ask? Your hamstrings are referring to three large groups of muscle behind your thigh, reaching from your butt to your knee. These muscles and tendons (the strong rope that connects your muscle to bone) help bend your knees as you lie face-down, lift your foot toward your back, straighten your hip and help you walk normally.
During a hamstring strain, or a ‘pulled’ hamstring one or more of these muscles are overloaded and may even tear. This is usually during explosive movements, such as sprinting, jumping and sudden stop/starting. There are three grades of hamstring injuries:
1: a mild muscle pull or strain.
2: a partial muscle tear
3: a complete muscle tear. Severely torn muscle causes impaired function.
Risk factors or common occurrences seen during hamstring strains are;
Not warming the muscle up before exercising.
Weak glute muscles. Glutes and hamstrings work together. If the glutes are weak, hamstrings can be overloaded and become strained.
The muscles in the front of your thing, your quads, are tight as they pull your pelvis forward and tighten the hamstrings.
Previously injured hamstrings.
Symptoms of a mild hamstring strain may not cause too much pain, but severe ones can cause loads of pain. As it usually occurs sometimes a “pop” or a “snap” can be heard or felt. A variable amount of pain is experienced immediately. In severe cases patients may not even walk or stand. Injuries most often occur in the middle of the back of the thigh where the muscle joins its tendon or at the origin of the hamstring at the base of the buttocks.
Three types of strains:Grade 1, or a mild strain, will usually cause tightness in the back of the thigh. You should be able to walk normally. You will be aware of some hamstring discomfort and be unable to run at full speed. There will be mild swelling and spasm. It may be painful to move your leg but the strength of the muscle shouldn’t be affected.
Grade 2 or a partial tear is usually more painful and tender. There may also be some swelling and bruising at the back of your thigh and you may have lost some strength in your leg. Sudden twinges of hamstring pain during the activity will be present. It will also be painful for you to bend your knee against resistance.
Grade 3 or a severe tear, will usually be very painful, tender, swollen, and bruised. There may have been the “popping” sensation at the time of the injury and you’ll be unable to use the affected leg.
During the first two or three days, you should care for your injury using RICE therapy:
Rest – Keep your leg as still as you possibly can and avoid physical activity. Using crutches in more severe cases.
Ice – Apply cold packs to your hamstring for 15 to 20 minutes to reduce pain and swelling.
Compress your leg – Use an elastic bandage around the leg to keep down swelling.
Elevate your leg – On a pillow when you’re sitting or lying down.
Chiropractic treatment for hamstring injuries can include adjustments to address tightness in the joints, muscle work to break up scar tissue, and stretches to increase flexibility. Your chiropractor will also check to see if you have muscular imbalances, which could lead to recurring hamstring injuries.