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The Pulled Hamstring: A High Intensity Injury

A lot of people know of the hamstring and where it is. However most people are unsure as to whether or not they’ve actually pulled their hamstring. Usually we see this classic injury while watching sport on TV, where we see the athlete suddenly come to a dramatic halt mid stride. This usually results in a specific and obvious tear in the hamstring. This doesn’t always have to be the case with a hamstring pull. 

In a lot of cases it starts as a dull ache in the back of the thigh that becomes worse the more you run and eventually can lead to a very sharp pain the prevents you running at all and can be even painful to walk.

So to understand this injury, chartered physiotherapist Manus MacGabhann looks at a few of basic questions surrounding this commonly seen problem.

What is the hamstring ?

The hamstring is a group of very large muscles to the back of your thigh. These muscles are the Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus and the Bicep Femoris. The main function of the hamstring is to bend your knee when walking and running, but more importantly it slows your swinging leg down giving it control just before your foot contacts the ground. 

What causes hamstring injuries?

These muscle strains usually occur during high accelerated movements such as running, jumping or any quick lower limb movements. For most people this happens when playing sport of some nature, but for many it can be as simple having to run quickly across an intersection before the lights change or an unfortunate as a slip on the ice.

What to do when you feel it happen?

Stop exercising straight away over the next 48 hours RICE (Rest Ice Compression and Elevation) is the most important. This is to help reduce blood flow in the area and also work as a simple pain reliever. Reducing activity is important over this period as it can limit inappropriate scar tissue formation. Scar tissue weakens the ability of the muscle to perform and increases the risk of another injury in the future. Having a previous Hamstring injury is the biggest risk factor to having another strain.

Physiotherapy Treatment and Rehabilitation

Depending on the severity of the pull of the hamstring rehab lengths vary from between 6-12+ weeks. In most cases physiotherapy is the main treatment for this injury with only some severe cases i.e   complete tear needing surgical intervention.

In the diagram you can see the 3 types of tears:

  • An Overstretch tear
  • A partial Tear
  • Complete tear

Physiotherapy treatment generally consists of deep tissue work, ultrasoundlaser and dry needling. On top of your treatment a correct home exercise program is needed to allow the muscle to rehabilitate as effectively as possible. This is key, as hamstrings can reoccur quite easily and can become a very regular and frustrating injury to suffer with.

Can Hamstring injuries be prevented?

There is no 100% management programme that can guarantee to prevent a hamstring tear. However, understanding the core principles or muscle strength and flexibility can help.  By keeping your hamstrings strong and flexible through appropriate stretching and strengthening you have a better chance of avoiding this injury.

Don’t worry if you are suffering from a hamstring problem, get in contact with us and we can get you back playing in no time!