What is a hamstring injury?
A hamstring injury is a strain or tear to the tendons or large muscles at the back of the thigh.
This type of injury is common in athletes and can occur in different severities. The three grades of hamstring injury are:
• grade 1 – a mild muscle pull or strain
• grade 2 – a partial muscle tear
• grade 3 – a complete muscle tear
The length of time it takes to recover from a hamstring strain or tear will depend on how severe the injury is.
A minor muscle pull or strain (grade 1) may take a few days to heal, whereas it could take weeks or months to recover from a complete muscle tear (grade 3).
How do we treat hamstring injuries at the Mansfield Clinic?
This depends on the exact nature of injury, and careful diagnosis is important. Dr Allfree will give you a thorough assessment and diagnosis, and advise you accordingly. Third degree muscle tears usually require surgical repair, and surgical follow-up can be arranged for you. First and second degree tears are treated with an appropriate rehabilitation programme. This is especially important for the injured athlete, and if you are intending to return to sport Dr Allfree will give you the appropriate professional advice to aid recovery, give you a specific exercise programme to help prevent you from tearing the same muscle again.
The hamstrings are a group of muscles that run along the back of your thigh, from the hip to just below the knee.
The hamstring muscles are very active during activities that involve bending the knee, such as running, jumping and climbing.
The hamstring muscles allow you to extend your leg behind your body and to bend your knee. An injury can occur if any of the tendons or muscles are overstretched.
Hamstring injuries often occur during sudden movements such as sprinting or jumping. If the hamstrings tear, you may feel a pop, followed by severe pain in the leg.
The muscle will often go into spasm and feel tender. In severe cases, there may be swelling and bruising. It may be very painful to walk.
Recurring hamstring injury is very common in sportsmen.
There are different treatments for each degree or level of injury:
These are what people call "pulled muscles." They cause a mild discomfort and do not diminish your strength to any significant degree. This usually means that less than 5 percent of your muscle is actually torn. You can probably go through the entire range of movement and not feel too bad.
The pain is more than a mild discomfort. Your muscle is not quite completely torn, but you may probably be able to feel a little bump or actually see a part of your muscle bulging under the skin. This is the torn part “balling up" because the tension the muscle has been under has been suddenly released. You will probably be able to contract the muscle, but not all the way and your range of movement will be greatly reduced due to pain.
This is a complete rupture of the muscle. You will be unable to contract the muscle, and you will be in severe pain. There may well be a large lump under the skin and you will also have a good deal of internal bleeding from the torn muscle fibres. You will most likely need surgical repair.
First degree tears, or "strains," rarely need to be looked at by a doctor. Second degree tears should be looked at by a doctor, who will be able to prescribe you stronger painkillers and recommend an appropriate course of action. If you believe you may have a third degree tear, you will need to be examined in hospital. Dr Allfree has specialist qualifications in sports medicine, and has had a lot of experience in assessing people with muscle tears, and he will be able to give you appropriate advice and treatment.
Stop exercising or doing whatever it was that you were doing when you first felt the pain. Many people will continue to work through the pain and actually make the injury worse.
Apply a cold compress or ice to the injured area for about 20 minutes. This will reduce the blood flowing to the muscle, and help with inflammation. Purpose made ice packs are available from the Mansfield Clinic.
Continue to apply ice to the tear for 10 to 15 minutes every hour. Wrap the injury site with a bandage, but not too tight. Keep it raised above the level of your heart to further reduce the blood flow to that area.
Take an over-the-counter painkiller, or anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Stay off the muscle for at least 72 hours and avoid any heavy lifting or excessive use. Use an ice pack daily during this time, for about 15 minutes by 3-4 times per day.
Start a rehabilitation program after you are feeling better, probably a bit longer for more severe injuries. You should get professional advice from Dr Allfree before attempting this as torn muscles will be very easily torn again. You will almost certainly need a supervised exercise programme.
Use an acronym to remember the treatment procedure after a torn muscle: P-R-I-C-E: