Your hamstring muscle is the large muscle group on the back of your thigh that bends (flexes) the knee and straightens (extends) the hip joint. A strain in the muscle occurs when the muscle fibres are stretched or torn.
A hamstring strain occurs commonly when the muscle is contracted forcefully during activity (e.g. running, jumping).
There are a number of predisposing factors towards a hamstring strain:
• Poor flexibility of the hamstring muscle
• Poor endurance of the hamstring muscle
• Inadequate rehabilitation of a previous injury to the hamstrings
• Decreased strength of the hamstring muscle –concentrically (shortening) and eccentrically (lengthening)
• Lumbar (low back) stiffness
• Poor warm up before exercise
• Increased neural tension
• Abnormal lower limb biomechanics
Symptoms of a Hamstring Strain
At the time of injury burning or a pop may be felt on the back of the thigh. There will be tenderness over the area of the strain and bruising and swelling may develop over several hours. Walking will be painful as will bending and straightening of the knee. Stretching and resisted contraction of the muscle will also be painful.
A Hamstring strain can range from mild to severe. Your physiotherapist will assess your injury and determine its severity. The extent of the injury will determine the type and period of rehabilitation required.
In most cases though, initial treatment of this condition would involve reducing pain and inflammation. This may involve, ice, electrotherapeutic modalities. It is also important to rest and allow time for healing to take place. Once the initial pain and swelling has subsided then gentle stretches and soft tissue therapy will begin.
Your physiotherapist will also provide you with a program of strengthening exercises that your physiotherapist would progress as appropriate. Your physiotherapist will also assess and treat any other predisposing factors at this time (e.g. low back stiffness). Finally your rehabilitation would move on to focus more on exercises that are specifically designed to return you to sport as soon and as safely as possible.