Hamstring pulls or strains are common among athletes and non-athletes alike. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment options can range from movement, exercise, analgesics and treatment (MEAT) to restorative stretches and strengthening exercises under the direction of a licensed physical therapist. Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) was once considered the best approach, but new studies show MEAT to be more effective. Surgery may be required in the case of extreme injury, such as a tear, though this is fortunately a much less common occurrence.
To begin to process the cause of your hamstring pain and the best path to recovery, it is important to first understand the composition of the muscle group and how these injuries can happen.
The hamstrings are a collection of three muscles that run down the back of the thigh from the pelvis, through the knee joint, and down to the lower leg. They include the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus and the biceps femoris. These muscles are essentially what enable you to bend your knee and extend your leg straight and are also involved in hip rotation and extension.
Often confused with sciatic nerve tightness, a hamstring injury occurs when the tendons are strained or torn. Runners, basketball players, and other athletes involved in running-centric sports are particularly susceptible to these injuries. The combination of high-speed movement and rapid muscle contraction can cause tension, and in extreme cases an avulsion, where the muscle or tendon is torn completely from the bone. Common symptoms of a hamstring pull or strain include tenderness and/or severe pain starting in the lower buttock and continuing down the back of the thigh.
Hamstring injuries can be preempted by wearing proper footwear, stretching and warming up before hitting the pavement. If you do experience a pulled hamstring, there are a number of treatment options that a doctor or healthcare professional can recommend after a thorough examination.
Hamstring injuries are fairly common, and so we see a lot of these at Vida Integrated Health. When a patient comes to us with symptoms suggestive of a pull, strain, or tear, we first conduct a physical examination and consultation. Once we determine whether the pain is in fact stemming from the hamstring, we determine the severity of the injury. Once a diagnosis is made, we recommend a personalized treatment regimen, which can range from surgery followed by a comprehensive physical therapy program to simple stretches you can do at home.
In the video above, Dr. Chase Waldrup, Board Certified Sports Chiropractor at Vida Seattle, discusses hamstring tightness and flexion intolerance, and he then demonstrates how to potentially increase mobility and reduce inflammation through nerve gliding.