At PHYSIO4ALL we treat a lot of muscle strains. A muscle strain is characterized by a partial tear of muscle fibres. In the leg, muscle strains happen when muscle fibres are stretched beyond their physiological limits or forced into extreme contraction.
The hamstring is made up of 3 large and powerful muscles that span the back of the thigh, from the lower pelvis to the back of the knee. The hamstring muscles function to extend the hip and bend the knee.
Mild to severe hamstrings injuries are very common in all sports involving sudden acceleration and deceleration forces, especially track and field, soccer, basketball and field hockey.
Signs that you have strained your hamstrings include a sudden sharp onset of pain at the back of the leg during exercise, usually preventing you from continuing to play. You may feel pain when sitting or while walking up hills or stairs. Swelling may accompany more severe injuries and bruising may be present.
An imbalance between the hamstring and quadriceps muscles may predispose you to Hamstrings strains. Furthermore, a lack of strength in your hamstrings or gluteal muscle, or tightness in your quadriceps may make you more prone to a hamstrings strain. Inadequate strength in the core muscles and hypomobility of the spine may also increase your chance of obtaining a hamstring strains, as will poor lower limb biomechanics.
If you have strained your hamstrings, initially you need to ice, compress and rest the injury to help support the damaged tissue and reduce pain, swelling and bruising. I would also recommend that you see a physiotherapist for a thorough gait analysis and biomechanical assessment of the spine, pelvis, hip and feet to evaluate if there is any underlying cause pre-disposing you to Hamstrings strains.
A critical element in the rehabilitation of a hamstrings strain is strength retraining. It is important that you strengthen the hamstring muscles eccentrically (as they lengthen) as this is when they are most commonly injured. This is a very advanced exercise and you should only perform it when the injury has healed and as a progression from earlier strength training.
To eccentrically strengthen your hamstrings, lie on your stomach and bend your knee to 90 degrees. Let your foot drop towards the floor ‘catching’ it just before your toes hit the floor. Bend back to 90 degrees and repeat. Repeat 10 repetitions of 3 sets. See this video for a demonstration: https://www.physio4all.com.au/blog/physio4all-video-blog/hamstring-drop-catch-exercise/ .
Another exercise can be seen on the following link: https://www.physio4all.com.au/blog/physio4all-info-blog/hamstring_exercise_2/.
The next blog will revisit Achilles Tendinopathy, in particular the anatomy and the phases of Achilles Tendinopathy.