Did you know that this common sports injury can be treated by your chiropractor? A hamstring injury is a strain or tear to the tendons or large muscles at the back of the thigh. It is one of the most common muscle injuries and can be very sore and painful. It is typically caused by rapid acceleration activities when running or initiating running activity and strikes athletes of all sorts – including runners, skaters, football, rugby, and basketball players.
What is a hamstring?
The hamstrings are tendons (strong bands of tissue) at the back of the thighs that attach the large thigh muscle to the bone. The term ‘hamstring’ also refers to the group of three muscles that run along the back of your thigh, from your hip to just below your knee. The muscles help bend the knee and straighten the hip. During a hamstring strain one or more of the muscles gets overloaded and may even tear. They are very active during activities that involve bending the knee, such as running, jumping and climbing but are not used too much while standing or walking. This particular injury has a high recurrence rate and can occur in the most well conditioned athlete and in different severities. Injuries to the hamstring group of muscles can range from a minor strain to a major rupture.
There are three grades of hamstring injuries:
- Grade 1: a mild muscle pull or strain.
- Grade 2: a partial muscle tear
- Grade 3: a complete muscle tear. Severely torn muscle causes impaired function.
A hamstring injury can occur when any of the tendons or muscles are overused and stretched beyond their limit. Usually during sudden explosive movements, such as sprinting, lunging, jumping or sudden stopping and starting. It can happen more gradually, or during slower movements that overstretch your hamstring. Your more likely to strain your hamstring if:
- You don’t warm up before exercising.
- The muscles in the front of your thigh (the quadriceps) are tight as they pull your pelvis forward and tighten the hamstrings.
- Weak glutes. Glutes and hamstrings work together. If the glutes are weak, hamstrings can be over loaded and become strained.
- If you have injured it before.
Doing regular stretching and strengthening exercises and warming up before exercise can help reduce the risk of injuring your hamstring.
Mild hamstring strains may not hurt too much. But severe ones can be agonizing. It usually occurs with sudden lunging, running, or jumping, resulting in muscle injury. The sudden jerking pulls on the tissues of the hamstring muscle, sometimes a “pop” or a “snap” can be heard or felt. A variable amount of pain is experienced immediately making it unable to continue your sport or exercise. You may not even walk or stand. Tears and strains most often occur at 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 (the ischium). Other symptons are pain in the lower buttock when walking, straightening the leg or bending over.
Three types of strains:
A Mild hamstring strain (grade 1) 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.
A Partial hamstring tear (grade 2) 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 activity will be present. It will also be painful for you to bend your knee against resistance.
A Severe hamstring tear (grade 3) will usually be very painful, tender, swollen and bruised. There may have been a “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. Your GP may recommend using crutches in more severe cases.
- Ice – Apply cold packs (a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel will also work) 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.
- Practice stretching and strengthening exercises – If your doctor/physical therapist recommends them. Strengthening your hamstrings is one way to protect against hamstring strain.
Recovering from a hamstring injury may take days, weeks or months, depending on how severe the strain or tear is. A completely torn hamstring (grade 3) may take several months to heal and you’ll be unable to resume training or play sport during this time. It’s important to get your hamstring diagnosed by a doctor or physical therapist. They will provide you with the appropriate care and exercises.
Chiropractic Treatment can include adjustments to address tightness in the joints, muscle work to break up scar tissue, and stretches to increase flexibility. Chiropractors will also check to see if patients have muscular imbalances, which could lead to recurring hamstring injuries.
Chiro & Sports Med
Our chiropractors at Chiro & Sports Med are committed to providing chiropractic solutions to address your unique needs, whether you are experiencing a pinched nerve, bulging disc, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, headaches or even muscular tightness and tension. You may be searching for pain relief after an accident or experiencing injury. You may suffer from a specific condition like chronic back pain or a spinal condition. Our mission is to help reduce or eliminate pain and to prevent future problems and injury. We are here to improve your quality of life, your well-being and your ability to live and active healthy lifestyle.