What is a Hamstring Strain?
The Hamstring muscle is the soft tissue which connects the pelvis to the outer aspect of the knee, responsible for bending and straightening. Hamstring strain occurs when this muscle becomes damaged or inflamed due to excessive strain or force being placed on the muscle.
The most common cause of hamstring strain is through overuse, particularly in patients who partake in running and jumping sports. This is also common in sports such as football due to the rapid changing of speed which is undergone whilst running.
Although this injury is typically seen as a result of overuse, hamstring strain can also occur suddenly if the muscle becomes over stretched for example when warm-up exercises have been missed out or are inadequate for the level of activity, causing the patient to over strain the hamstring whilst performing running, kicking, jumping or skipping movements.
Individuals who have just started exercising or have increased their level of fitness are also at risk of sustaining this injury as they may lack strength and flexibility.
Hamstring Strain Symptoms
Patients who suffer hamstring strain are likely to feel pain in the back of the thigh which gradually becomes more apparent through continued activity. This is due to the muscle becoming inflamed and swollen and in more severe cases, muscle spasms. When the injury is caused by sudden pressure or force to the tendon, pain will usually come on suddenly at the point of injury.
Patients are likely to feel aching and stiffness which becomes more apparent first thing in the morning and often the knee joint will feel a weak, making the patient unable to resume activity.
Hamstring Strain Diagnosis
In order to diagnose hamstring strain, a doctor or physiotherapist will give an examination of the area. Often a doctor will carry out and X-ray or MRI scan in order to confirm the diagnosis and also to rule out any further complications.
Hamstring Strain Treatment
In order to treat hamstring strain, rest is crucial in order to allow the injury time to heal and to prevent any further activity which could cause damage or discomfort to the injury. Applying ice to the injury is an important aspect of healing as it will reduce any swelling and inflammation as well as providing cooling pain relief to the injury. Using the RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is beneficial for the first 72 hours of the injury occurring as it will reduce swelling to the area and by keeping the injury elevated blood flow is restricted which can prevent further inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory medications can also be taken in order to reduce swelling as well as relieving pain or achiness from the injury.
Taping and strapping techniques are often used for hamstring injuries as they can help stabilise and support the area whilst relieving pressure. Some athletes find it beneficial to continue with these methods after recovery to prevent a reoccurrence of the condition.
When the injury has begun healing and you are advised by a physiotherapist or doctor, it is important for the patient to undergo a rehabilitation program such as strengthening and stretching exercises which will keep the area strong and make it easier to return to sports once the injury has fully recovered. These exercises should not be carried out if the patient feels pain in the area and the advice of a physiotherapist should always be sought in order to obtain an exercise regime suitable for the individual.