Pulled hamstrings occur when your hamstrings i.e., the muscles at the back of your thighs, tear, strain, or stretch beyond their limit from an immediate or powerful contraction. While it is a very common injury, especially among athletes and individuals who participate in sports, it can happen to anyone and cause severe pain, discomfort, and mobility issues.
A pulled hamstring recovery typically includes rest and physical therapy and gets resolved without the need for any surgical procedure, but depending on the cause and the severity of symptoms, your doctor might recommend other treatment options as well.
What are the causes of pulled hamstrings?
Pulled hamstrings occur when your hamstring stretches beyond its natural limit and becomes overloaded. It might also happen due to a powerful blow to your thighs, fatigue, and weakness from exercising too hard.
It usually happens due to a sports injury, such as during sprinting or cycling, but it can occur anytime if the force exceeds the pressure capacity of the hamstrings.
Anyone can have a pulled hamstring, but certain factors might increase the risk. This includes:
- weak leg muscles
- flexibility problem in the hamstrings
- not warming up the muscles before exercising
- muscle imbalance
- hamstring injury
- running, stretching, or sprinting for a long time
Pulled hamstring symptoms
The symptoms primarily depend on the severity of the injury. You may experience severe pain and soreness, along with a snapping sound, swelling, and spasms. The muscles might also become tender to the touch.
There are basically three grades of a pulled hamstring that determine its severity.
Grade 1: This grade involves microscopic tears in the muscle fibers and causes mild symptoms and fewer mobility issues.
Grade 2: This grade of pulled hamstrings involves a partial tear and leads to moderate and bearable pain. Additionally, bruising and swelling may also occur.
Grade 3: This grade involves a complete muscle tear, which may lead to significant pain and swelling. Grade 3 levels of pulled hamstrings can cause serious mobility issues and also interfere with everyday activities such as standing or walking. Recovery can take a few months and serious cases may also require surgery.
Pulled hamstring treatment
While treatment for pulled hamstrings usually depends on the severity of the case, minor to moderate strains heal on their own without surgical treatment.
To speed up the recovery, however, you may follow the given tips:
Rest: Avoid putting weight on the affected leg and limit your participation in activities that can worsen the pain.
Ice: Apply ice packs to reduce swelling and pain. Do it a few times every day until you feel better.
Compression: Compress your leg using an elastic compression bandage to reduce swelling in the hamstring muscles.
Elevation: Place your affected leg on an elevated platform such as a pillow to reduce or prevent further swelling.
Anti-inflammatory painkillers may help alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and make you feel much better. But before taking any anti-inflammatory drugs, consult your doctor to determine which medication will best suit your health condition.
Physical therapy involves stretching and low-impact strengthening exercises to improve your hamstring’s range of motion. While regular physical therapy may accelerate healing, working under a certified therapist is important to ensure that everything is safe.
To immobilize your affected hamstring, you may need to wear a splint on your leg until your condition improves.
In severely pulled hamstrings cases, you may also require surgery to repair and reattach the muscles.
Also read: 7 Best Yoga Poses to Stretch Your Hamstrings
Once your pain has reduced, you can start with light physical activities, however, make sure your doctor knows about it. Gradually, increase your exercise intensity and try to add variety to determine if your hamstring can withstand the pressure. Always remember not to push yourself too hard as a pulled hamstring can recur and lead to other muscle problems as well.
Most importantly, remember to follow up with your healthcare provider to discuss your recovery progress.