With all the wear and tear our leg muscles endure on a daily basis, it is easy to think that they can stand up to anything. However, anyone who has ever experienced a pulled hamstring knows how easy it can be to overexert these muscles to the point of injury. Whether you are currently experiencing a pulled hamstring, or are looking for tips to promote leg strength and prevent injury, keep reading to learn about pulled hamstring causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
Pulled hamstring muscles are common among active individuals. However, many are unaware that the hamstring actually composed of three separate muscles. The semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris control movement of the upper leg, pulling backward against the quadriceps on the front of the leg.
A pulled hamstring is an overextension of this muscle group, due to physical stress. Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, symptoms can vary from passing discomfort to extreme pain and loss of function.
Hamstring muscles are biarticular, which means they affect two different joints in the leg, specifically the knee and hips. Because of this, the likelihood of incurring a hamstring pulled muscle is increased and the injury drastically affects the overall functioning of the leg.
Pulled vs. Torn Hamstring
To determine whether you’re dealing with a pulled or torn hamstring, your doctor will identify the amount of damaged muscle fibers. Grade one strains, in which most of the muscle fibers are intact and symptoms are relatively mild, are classified as hamstring pulls.
Grade two strains occur when the hamstring fibers are partially torn, resulting in increased pain and loss of joint function. When the hamstring is completely torn, you are experiencing a grade three strain, which is accompanied with the most severe symptoms and may require surgery.
Pulled Hamstring Causes
A pulled hamstring can result from accidents or injuries, or from long-term wear and tear that slowly erodes the muscle. During an injury, and audible pop is often heard, which is one clear sign of a pulled hamstring.
While pulled hamstrings are common in sports, they can actually be caused by a number of common activities and affect people of all lifestyles. Here are some contributing factors that can lead to a hamstring injury:
Failing to stretch or warm up before exercise increases the likelihood of a pulled muscle.
An imbalance between the quadricep and hamstring may pull the leg forward unnaturally and lead to a pulled hamstring behind the knee.
Poor footwear can cause problems throughout the entire leg, often impacting the hamstring.
Weak glutes can quickly lead to a pulled upper hamstring, as these two muscle groups work together.
Pulled Hamstring Symptoms
The symptoms of a pulled hamstring vary widely, depending on the grade of the strain. Mild symptoms may include light discomfort that passes in a few days, while more severe cases can lead to excessive pain and loss of function.
The most obvious sign of a pulled hamstring is the audible popping noise that can accompany the pull. For more clues on the nature of your injury, look for the following tactile and visual symptoms:
What Does A Pulled Hamstring Feel Like?
Pulled hamstring pain is localized to the back of the leg and is most severe while walking, bending over, or straightening the limb. Pain may come on suddenly while exercising, or it may ache dully throughout the day.
What Does a Pulled Hamstring Look Like?
Figuring out how to know if you pulled your hamstring can be as easy as a quick visual check. For severe strains, bruising and swelling may be present on the back of the leg.
Pulled Hamstring Treatment
Knowing how to treat a pulled hamstring comes down to a quick response and access to the right equipment. Whether that means applying an ice pack and performing light stretches or turning to an effective massage roller, getting the right treatment for a pulled hamstring does not have to cost lots of time or money.
Find more in-depth tips on how to heal a pulled hamstring below.
Pulled Hamstring Stretches and Exercises
Whether you undergo pulled hamstring rehab or treat a pulled hamstring at home, a broad selection of exercises and stretches is helpful to your recovery. Try incorporating one or two of the examples below into your regular workout.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
One of the most simple and effective exercises for a pulled hamstring requires no equipment at all. Begin in a standing position, and extend your uninjured leg in front of you, with the heel on the ground and toes pointed up. Then, bend your back knee slightly, bracing your weight with your hands. Hold for up to 20 seconds.
Prone Hip Extension
All pulled hamstring exercises should be performed with care while injured, to avoid exacerbating the condition. Begin flat on your belly, with your toes pointed toward the floor and your head supported by your arms. Gently raise your leg 12 inches off the floor, then lower. Alternate legs and repeat up to 12 times.
Static Wall Stretch
Several stretches for a pulled hamstring use a wall to support the exercise. For a static wall stretch, simply position yourself on your back, with your legs against the wall. Push your knees toward the wall, stretching the back portion of your legs. Hold this position for up to 20 seconds, and repeat several times.
Pulled Hamstring Support Options
Sometimes, knowing what to do for a pulled hamstring means investing in the right equipment. Luckily for those suffering from this injury, there are many available products to ease symptoms while supporting a healthy recovery.
A brace supports your injured hamstring to alleviate pain and prevent further damage. ( See Product)
The best way to start treating a pulled hamstring is with a quality hamstring brace. By offering support and compression, they keep most patients active during their recovery by reducing pain and swelling.
IT Band Strap
An IT band strap supports your pulled hamstring without impeding your mobility or preventing you from performing daily activities. ( See Product)
Ideally, a pulled hamstring remedy can be effective without impeding your daily life. If a slim fit is your priority, an IT band strap could be the best option. By fitting over your upper leg, this strap applies gentle pressure to the iliotibial band, reducing pain during movement.
If your pulled hamstring is most painful near the groin area, supporting the specific injury site will help you recover more quickly. ( See Product)
When treating a painful condition with prosthetics, it is important to target the injury as accurately as possible. Often, targeting treatment for a pulled hamstring means focusing on the upper leg and groin area. A groin brace is perfect for injuries located in the upper thigh.
Pulled Hamstring Recovery
How long does a pulled hamstring take to heal? Pulled hamstring recovery time can range from days to months, depending on the severity of the injury and the patient’s age and medical history.
In most cases, pulled hamstring healing time is six to eight weeks, as long as a proactive treatment plan is pursued. Plenty of rest, ice, compression, and exercise will cut down on recovery time, as well as offer immediate pulled hamstring relief.
Long-Term Care for a Pulled Hamstring
Pulled hamstring care does not end once symptoms disappear. To protect against future pulls, incorporate long-term strategies to promote leg health, and discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor. During your recovery, make use of the variety of available exercises and equipment to support the process.
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