How to Relieve Hamstring Pain

Three Methods:Using Home CareUsing Medical TreatmentPreventing Hamstring Injuries

Your hamstrings are actually made up of three separate muscles: the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris.[1] Your hamstrings bend and flex at the knee and are essential for hip movement. You can pull your hamstring while running, kicking, skating, weightlifting or even walking, where there is a sudden stretching of your hamstring muscles. A pulled hamstring usually happens near the hip area, causing a sharp pain at the back of your thigh, your hip or your groin. You may notice swelling, bruising and tenderness in the injured area and you may not be able to walk or put weight on the injured leg.[2]

Method 1
Using Home Care

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    Stop moving and do not put weight on the injured leg. If you injure your hamstring while doing sports or any physical activity, you should stop moving and take any weight off your leg. This will ensure you do not make the injury any worse and can protect your hamstring from further damage.[3]
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    Apply ice packs to the hamstring. Icing your hamstring will reduce any swelling or inflammation. Use ice packs or a bag of frozen peas. You can also fill a long tube sock with rice and put it in the freezer overnight, then apply it to your injured hamstring.[4]
    • Put the ice on your hamstring for 10–15 minutes at a time, every hour on the first 24 hours of injury. Leave the ice pack off at night while you sleep.
    • After the first 24 hours, ice the hamstring four to five times, or two to three hours, a day.
    • Once you can walk on your injured leg without any pain, you should alternate heat and cold, following the pattern: two minutes hot, one minute cold, for six cycles. Repeat the cycle twice a day.
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    Wrap your upper leg in a compression bandage or wear compression shorts. The compression will help to reduce any swelling in the injured area. Make sure the bandage is wrapped tightly enough around your upper leg to apply medium pressure, but not too tightly. The bandage should not cause any bulging around the injured area or stop blood flow to the area.
    • To put on the compression bandage, begin by wrapping the bandage high on your leg, above the injured area. Once the swelling goes down, you no longer need to wrap your injured hamstring.
    • If the pain around the injured area increases once you wrap it with the compression bandage, the bandage is too tight. Loosen it up or re wrap it so it is not as tight around your leg.
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    Elevate your leg above the level of your heart. Elevating your leg will help to improve blood flow to the area and reduce any pain. You should rest your leg on several pillows or a raised chair as much as possible to encourage healing.
    • After the first or second day of the injury, try to move a little bit every hour or so, slowly and carefully. Do not overdo your movements or put too much weight on the leg as this can make the hamstring injury worse.
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    Take over-the-counter pain medication. To reduce the pain and the swelling in the injured area, take OTC pain medication. You can find ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) at your local grocery store or drugstore.

Method 2
Using Medical Treatment

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    See a doctor if you cannot put any weight at all on the injured leg or if you are in severe pain. The doctor will do a physical exam of the leg and talk to you about how the injury occurred. She may also do imaging testing, such as an X-ray, an MRI, or an ultrasound to check for more severe injuries.
    • You should also see your doctor if the injured area is still painful despite the use of home care for five to seven days.
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    Get a referral for a massage therapist or a physical therapist. If your injury is severe, your doctor may recommend a massage therapist or a physical therapist. The physical therapist may then apply electrotherapy to the injury using ultrasound, laser, and pulse shortwave.
    • The therapist may also recommend stretches that you can do before any physical activity to prevent another hamstring injury.
    • She may also suggest using a foam roller to stretch and massage your hamstring once you can walk on the injured leg without any pain. The foam roller is a foam tube that you can put under the injured leg. You can then roll back and forth on the foam roller to massage your hamstring. You can find a video on how to use the foam roller here.[5]
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    Talk to the doctor about surgery if the hamstring is torn or detached from the bone. Your doctor may recommend surgery on your hamstring if the muscle is seriously injured, with a tear of the muscle or a detachment of the muscle from the bone.[6]
    • During the procedure, the surgeon will pull your hamstring muscle back into place and remove any scar tissue. She will then reattach the tendon to the bone using stitches or staples. If you have a complete tear within your hamstring muscle, it will need to be sewn back together with stitches.
    • During recovery from the surgery, you should keep weight off of your injured leg and use crutches to get around. You may also need to wear a brace so your hamstring stays in a relaxed position. Your doctor will likely suggest a physical therapy program that involves gentle stretches and strengthening exercises. It usually takes about six months to recover from proximal hamstring reattachment surgery, and three months to recover from distal hamstring re-attachments. Your doctor can also give you a timeline of when you can return to normal use of your injured leg.

Method 3
Preventing Hamstring Injuries

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    Do hamstring stretches before you do any physical activity. To prevent injury to your hamstring, you should take the time to stretch your hamstrings before doing any physical activity. You can perform hamstring stretches by doing them statically or dynamically. Static stretching should be performed after your activity, while dynamic stretching can be performed before starting an activity.
    • You can do static hamstring stretches, where you are seated on the floor, as well as standing hamstring stretches.[7]
    • Dynamic stretching done prior to activity has been shown to reduce injury.[8] Dynamic stretching, done prior to activity, is designed to increase circulation and slowly warm up the muscles, which may be the key reasons for preventing further injury.
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    Do not overexert your hamstrings if you have a history of hamstring injuries. If you have a history of hamstring pulls, this may mean you have weakened hamstrings and are more prone to hamstring injuries. Try not to put too much stress on your hamstring muscles while doing physical activity.[9]
    • Be conscious of how you are moving and stretching your hamstrings to prevent injuring it again. This may mean not over stretching your hamstring while stretching or supporting your leg with a brace while doing physical activity so you are not putting any stress on your hamstring.
    • You may also do an alternative physical movement in a fitness class that will not put stress on your hamstring. Talk to the instructor before class about your injury and any modifications you can do in the class to prevent overexerting your hamstring.
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    Try yoga or pilates to improve your muscle flexibility. Yoga and pilates are good for improving your overall flexibility, as well as your hamstring flexibility. Stronger, more flexible hamstrings are less prone to injury.
    • If you are recovering from a hamstring injury and are cleared to strength train, look into starting the Norwegian hamstring exercise program. This program was designed in 2001 and shown to reduce the risk of acute hamstring injuries in football players by 50%.[10]

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Categories: Feet Knees and Legs | Pain Management and Recovery