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What are Hamstring Injuries?

The hamstring is a group of three muscles that run along the back of the thigh from the hip to the knee. Hamstring injuries occur when these muscles are strained or pulled. They are common in dancers and athletes of all sorts including runners and those who play football, soccer, basketball, tennis, etc.

Causes of Hamstring Injuries

Major causes of hamstring injuries can be:

  • Sports that require sprinting or running with sudden stops or stretching
  • Activities such as dancing that requires extreme stretching
  • Incomplete healing of prior hamstring injury
  • Poor hamstring flexibility (or hamstring tightness)
  • Muscle imbalance (front muscles of the thigh stronger than hamstring)

Signs and Symptoms of the Condition

The major sign of a hamstring injury can be a sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh. Other symptoms include:

  • A popping or tearing sensation in the thigh
  • Swelling and tenderness within a few hours of injury
  • Pain in the back of the lower buttock when walking
  • Bruising or discoloration along the back of the leg
  • Muscle weakness leading to an inability to put weight on the injured leg

What If Hamstring Injuries are Left Untreated?

If untreated, hamstring injuries may lead to prolonged and chronic pain in the thigh, and eventually result in permanent muscle dysfunction.

How is the Condition Diagnosed?

Your doctor will begin the diagnosis with a physical exam including moving the injured leg into a variety of positions. The doctor may also look for:
Tenderness and/or swelling along the back of the thigh
Damage of ligament or tendon in the back of the thigh

Additionally, your doctor is likely to order certain imaging tests such as X-ray and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to confirm and determine the degree of the condition.

Treatment of Hamstring Injuries

Treatment depends on the severity of the injury. Initially, your doctor may recommend simple, self-care measures such as:

  • Complete rest to allow the hamstring injury to heal
  • Use of ice packs to reduce swelling and relieve pain
  • Wrapping the injured area with a compression bandage to minimize swelling
  • Elevating the injured leg above the heart level to minimize swelling
  • Over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Immobilization with a splint to help the injured leg heal
  • Use of a cane or crutches to avoid weight on the injured leg

After the initial pain and swelling subside, your doctor may opt for physiotherapy involving specific exercises to improve flexibility and strengthen the hamstring muscles. However, surgery may be required in severe cases such as a total tear of the hamstring muscle.

Most people are known to recover to full function after completing a rehabilitation process.

Hamstring Avulsion Surgery

Hamstring avulsion is a serious injury that may require surgery. During the tendon avulsion repair, hamstring muscles are pulled back to its normal attachment. Your surgeon cuts away any scar tissue from the hamstring tendon and then the tendon is reattached to the bone using staples or stitches. If there is a complete tear within the muscle, the torn ends are reattached using stitches.

After surgery, you may need to use crutches and a brace to protect and keep your hamstring muscle in relaxed position. Your doctor will recommend physical therapy which involves gentle stretching exercises in order to restore normal function. Rehabilitation period of at least 3 to 6 months may be needed before returning to athletic activities.

Related Conditions and Procedures

Hamstring Repair

hamstring injuries can usually be treated with non-surgical options such as the RICE protocol, immobilization, and physical therapy.

Injection Therapy

Cortisone is a corticosteroid released by the adrenal gland in response to stress and is a potent anti-inflammatory agent.

Hamstring Tendinopathy

Hamstring tendinopathy is a condition characterized by a deep pain in the buttocks and upper part of the back of the thigh. It is also referred to as chronic high hamstring tendinopathy or proximal hamstring tendinopathy.

PRP Injections

Our blood consists of a liquid component known as plasma. It also consists of three main solid components which include the red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), and platelets. Platelets play an important role in forming blood clots. They also consist of special proteins, known as growth factors, which help with our body’s healing process. Platelet-rich plasma or PRP is a high concentration of platelets and plasma.

Partial Tears

Coming Soon...

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • The Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons
  • University of Pittsburgh