physical therapy guide

Physical Therapy Guide for Hamstring Injuries

Have you ever gone for a deep lunge and felt a sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh? You may have strained your hamstring.

Hamstrings are a group of three muscles that run down the back of the thigh connecting the pelvis to the leg. A hamstring strain is one of the most common injuries of the lower body.

What Are Hamstring Injuries?

The anatomy of the hamstring muscles includes the portion that contracts or relaxes to move a limb, called the belly, and the portion that connects the muscle belly to the bone, called the tendon. When excessive force is applied while stretching, damage can occur to the muscle belly.

Hamstring strains typically happen during high-speed running with sudden starts or changes in direction or when the muscle is overstretched by activities such as sprinting, hurdling, kicking or heavy lifting.

Risk factors for hamstring strain injuries include:

…Sports participation. Any activity that requires extreme stretching of the hamstring, like running or sprinting, poses the risk of injury.

…Prior hamstring injury. You’re more likely to have another injury after your first one, especially if you continue your activities at pre-injury levels before your muscle has healed.

…Poor flexibility. Your flexibility can affect your muscle’s ability to bear the full force of the action.

…Inadequate warm-up before activity. If you do not gently stretch before an activity, you can experience an injury.

Hamstring strain injuries are classified as grade I, II or III depending on the severity of the injury:

…Grade I: a mild muscle strain—likely to recover in a few days

…Grade II: a partial muscle tear

…Grade III: a complete muscle tear or tear of an attachment—may take weeks or months to heal

How Does It Feel?

You may experience a sudden pain in the back of the thigh. It can happen quickly and cause you to stop the activity you’re participating in. If the injury is mild, the symptoms may last for a few days; if they are severe, they could last weeks.

Symptoms include:

…Sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh or in the buttocks.

…Feeling of a “pop” or tearing in the muscle.

…Bruising within hours or days after the injury.

…Tenderness to touch in the affected area.

…Difficulty sitting comfortably, lifting the leg when lying down or straightening the knee.

…Difficulty walking or running, resulting in a limp.

Mild hamstring strains can be treated at home. If you can’t bear any weight on your injured leg or if you can’t walk more than four steps without significant pain, you should see a doctor.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Your physical therapist will conduct an evaluation to determine if your symptoms are an indicator of any serious conditions.

Your physical therapist may ask you:

…What activities were you performing when you felt pain?

…Where is the pain?

…Did you hear a “pop” when it occurred?

…Did you notice any bruising after the injury?

…What were you not able to do immediately following the injury, and how have you been functioning since the injury (e.g., walking, sleeping, lifting your leg)?

…Have you had a similar injury before?

After the questions, the physical therapist performs tests, such as:

…Observation for bruising.

…Pain assessment.

…Palpation to determine the location and size of the area—this will help determine the severity of the injury.

…Range-of-motion test.

…Muscle-strength test.

…Gait analysis.

If you are suffering from a grade III strain, your physical therapist will likely refer you to an orthopedic physician for diagnostic imaging.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

A physical therapist can help with recovery of a hamstring strain. Your physical therapist treatment may include:

…Manual therapy. Your physical therapist may massage and move the affected area to help improve motion, flexibility and strength.  

…Range-of-motion exercises. You may want to stretch your muscles after the injury, but you don’t want to do this early in the recovery process. Your therapist will guide you when it’s appropriate to do so.

…Muscle-strengthening exercises. Your physical therapist will prescribe exercises to target weakened muscles.

…Functional training. Eventually, your therapist will help elevate your training to pre-injury.

If your strain requires surgery, your physical therapist will work with your surgeon to ensure complete postoperative care.

Can This Injury or Condition Be Prevented?

With any muscle strain, there are several ways to decrease your risk, including:

…Warm up before activities.

…Gradually increase the frequency and intensity of new activities.

…Strengthen your hamstring muscles.

Your physical therapist can help you avoid or treat a strain with specific exercises and training.

True Sports Physical Therapy—Where Maryland Athletes Rehab

At True Sports, we’re sports focused because you’re sports focused. The best physical therapists in Baltimore and Maryland provide the highest level of sports physical therapy and expertise you need to get back to your sport.

With six convenient, state-of-the-art locations to choose from, any athlete who takes their rehab seriously can get awesome care and extraordinary results. Select your location and schedule an appointment, and have True Sports get you back to your team.

For questions about insurance or self-pay rates, please call our office at (401) 946-1672.

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