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Hamstring Injury - Symptoms, Causes and What to Do About It

Feel like you've injured your hamstring? Here's what to do.

Man holding bench to stabilize himself after suffering hamstring injury

Hamstring injuries are probably some of the most common types on injuries in athletes of all sorts.

Whether you're a runner, a basketball player, a football player or a weightlifter, the hamstrings seem to be one of those muscle groups that are just more susceptible to injury than others.

If you think you might've suffered a hamstring injury of some sort, you've likely got nothing to worry about.

However in this post we will just help you out in confirming whether or not you actually have injured your hamstring, or there's something else causing the pain/soreness.

We'll also break down the likely and common causes of hamstring injuries, as well as the possible treatment and remedies that you can put your hamstrings through at home.

Then, at the end we'll help you decide when you need to go and seek professional advice from your doctors, and give you some helpful tips to prevent hamstring injuries in the future for more pain-free training and longevity!

With that said, let's get started.

What Is a Hamstring Injury?

In the most basic terms, a hamstring injury is a strain or a tear in the tendons or muscles that run along the rear side of your thighs.

There are generally three types of hamstring injuries, grouped and sorted by the severity and nature of the injury.

The three types of hamstring injuries are as follows:

  • grade 1 - this is a moderate muscle pull or strain of the hamstrings or the tendons in those areas

  • grade 2 - this is a partial tear of the muscle, where nearly half of the muscle fibers are torn

  • grade 3 - this is a complete tear of the muscles or tendons, where the tendons are either completely separated from the muscle bellies, or the muscle bellies become completely torn into two parts.

As you can probably tell, the higher the grade number the more severe the hamstring injury is going to be.

Lots of people might find that they've likely suffered a grade 1 hamstring injury before, but never really thought too much of it and just let it heal.

How Long Does it Take for a Hamstring Injury to Heal?

Man doing treatment at home after hamstring injury

Depending on the severity of your hamstring injury, it can take anywhere from a a couple of days to several weeks or months depending on the grade level.

A muscle pull of the hamstrings will likely take a couple of days to heal, whereas partial tears might take a couple of weeks and complete tears might take months.

It all depends on how severe the hamstring injury is and how well you're able to treat it.

How Do I Know if I’ve Actually Injured My Hamstrings?

In case you're not really sure whether you actually injured your hamstring or not, we'll help you clear that up in this section here.

Generally, a mild hamstring injury (such as a muscle pull or strain) isn't going to cause too much pain. You might feel a little discomfort here and there during your physical activities, but it shouldn't be too unbearable.

However a more severe one such as a partial or complete tear is likely to cause you pain. The size of the tear is going to determine how much pain it causes you, with complete tears often being agonizing and too painful to walk on or stand on.

Other Symptoms

Some other symptoms of a hamstring injury could include:

  • sudden and intense pain during exercise, as well as a popping or snapping sensation in the back of your thigh

  • bruising at the back of the thigh

  • discomfort in the back of your thighs when bending, walking or straightening your leg

  • feelings of tenderness.

Depending on the severity of your hamstring injury, you may also find that you lose some of the strength in your legs.

For muscle pulls or strains (grade 1), you likely won't lose the strength in your leg and although this is not recommended, can still perform most of your tasks.

For partial tears, you might lose a little bit of strength in your leg and find that doing everyday activities such as walking up the stairs of bending over to pick things up off the ground causes you a little bit of pain and discomfort.

And unfortunately complete tears of the hamstrings, you're more than likely to find that you aren't able to use the affected leg at all. Your ability to perform lots of everyday tasks will be hindered, and it's going to suck.

If you're still not sure about whether or not you're suffered a hamstring injury, you can always go to see a doctor and have them run you through a series of physical examinations.

Then they'll be able to confidently and accurately diagnose you with a hamstring injury if you've got one.

What Causes Hamstring Injuries?

Hamstring injuries can be caused by many different factors.

Most of the time, people that suffer hamstring injuries are athletes that constantly undergo sudden and powerful movements such as sprinting, jumping, and bending.

Athlete lying on the ground after suffering hamstring tear during running

However it can also happen gradually over time on slower and less intense exercises.

They're also more likely to happen if:

  • you aren't warming up properly before your workouts

  • you have weak glutes and try to perform intense exercises. This is going to cause too much stress to the hamstrings and overload them

  • you have tight quadriceps and try to perform physical activities with them.

It's also important to note that recurring injuries in the hamstrings are quite common.

If you've injured your hamstring before, you're more likely to injure it again in the future.

Treatment for Hamstring Injury

Minor and moderate hamstring injuries will usually heal on their own.

All you need to do is give them a chance to rest, and give them some time to heal. However there are things that you can do to speed up this healing process, and it's highly recommended that you do try these remedies at home.

Allow the Leg to Rest

Perhaps the most obvious one is the fact that you should allow your leg to rest. Don't put it through any more physical activity, as this is only going to hinder your ability to heal and recover from your hamstring injury.

Apply Ice to Your Hamstring

This is a great strategy that you can use to reduce the pain and discomfort caused by your hamstring injury.

Just give it 20-30 minutes a day until the pain is gone, and you should feel better after a couple of days.

Not healed, but better.

Elevate Your Leg

Elevating your leg with a pillow when you're sitting or lying down is a great way to reduce the pressure placed on your legs, giving them more rest and more time to recover.

Other treatment could include:

  • anti-inflammatory painkillers

  • compressing your leg

  • other treatment recommended by your doctor such as wearing knee splints.

When to See a Doctor About Your Hamstring Injury

You should go and see a doctor if you have serious concerns about your hamstring injury.

Most of the time hamstring injuries can be completely healed at home.

However if you believe it's a severe injury or don't think it's getting any better, then it might be time to go and see a doctor.

It's always better to be safe than sorry.

From there onwards, follow any directions that your doctor gives you. Don't just follow off of this article.

Please note that with severe hamstring injuries, you may need surgery to repair the damaged muscles.

How to Prevent Hamstring Injuries in the Future

Preventing future hamstring injuries comes down to a series of basic measures that you can take.

Warm Up before Exercising

One of the most important things that you can do to prevent future hamstring injuries is to warm up appropriately before your workout sessions.

This is going to help ensure that you're going into your workout feeling prepared, and aren't giving your tight muscles a big shock from sudden, explosive and intense movements.

Man and woman jogging on treadmill to warm up legs before intense workout session

Don't Increase the Intensity of Your Workouts Too Quickly

Try not to increase the intensity of your workouts too quickly from week to week. Doing this is going to ensure that your hamstrings don't face a major shock and get put under levels of stress that they aren't strong enough to handle.

Be sensible with the amount of progressive overload that you implement into your workouts from week to week.

It's better to be safe than sorry.

Stretch Your Hamstrings Often

By stretching your hamstrings often, you're going to reduce the chances of you heading into a workout with tight hamstrings, and accidentally placing them under too much stress whilst they're still tight.

It's much easier to injure a muscle when it's tight, and you want to reduce the chances of suffering a hamstring injury as much as possible by stretching them and loosening them up.

Stop if You Feel Pain

This one should be the most obvious of all.

If you feel pain when you're exercising or doing any type of physical activity, stop immediately.

Trying to push through the pain and keep going with your exercise is only going to lead to more problems and hamstring injuries in the future.

To Conclude

Hamstring injuries are unfortunately quite a common type of injury that many athletes are likely to face in their lifetimes.

However with the right knowledge, most of them can not only be treated from home but also prevented from happening in the future.

Most hamstring injuries just need time to heal, however it's sensible to go and see a doctor if you believe the injury is severe and requires professional medical attention.

Remember, it's always better to be safe than sorry.

We hope you've enjoyed reading through this post, and have been able to learn something from it!

Have you ever injured your hamstring before?