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Hamstring Strain


Hamstring Strain - Why does this happen?
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles which run from the bony prominence on the pelvis to both the inside and outside of the knee. The hamstring muscles help extend the hip and bend the knee. 

A Hamstring Strain is a tear in one or more of the hamstring muscles.  In most cases a Hamstring Strain will occur as a result of large powerful movement.  The tear is most common in the ‘belly’ of the muscle and is due to overstretching or repeated stress of the muscle fibres.  Muscle imbalance between the quadriceps and hamstrings, weak core muscles, poor warm up and tight hamstring muscles may be contributing factors.

Following a Hamstring Strain the tear in the muscle will repair itself with scar tissue.  As this is not as flexible as muscle tissue there is often reoccurrence of the injury
What are the symptoms?
  • Pain, tenderness, bruising or swelling on the back of thigh.
  • Pain is worse on exercise particularly bending movements of the knee.
  • Pain is relieved after a period of rest.
  • You have difficulty walking.


Diagnosing a Hamstring Strain 

Your GP or Physiotherapist can usually diagnose a Hamstring Strainby simply examining your leg and hearing where the pain is and how it started.


X-rays and other tests are not usually necessary.
What is the treatment?

A Hamstring Strain will usually recover with some simple changes to activity and exercise.   By trying to avoid or reduce the activity which causes the pain, you will allow the damaged muscle time to recover and heal.  Modify activities to incorporate less strenuous activities such as swimming


To help reduce the symptoms an 'ice pack' can be placed on the painful area for 15 - 20 minutes, twice a day.  Do not place the 'ice pack' directly on the skin.  Wrap the 'ice pack' in a damp towel before placing on the painful area to ensure you do not burn the skin.  


When possible elevate the leg during the first 48 hours.


During the initial painful stages it is important to manage the pain. 

Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications  -  These may be prescribed by your GP if the pain is costant.  This is a temporary measure to break the pain cycle, but can continue as required.
Exercise  -  Exercise is important to help regain full hip and knee movement in the acute stage. Once the pain has settled it is important to strengthen the surrounding muscles and work on your balance to help prevent reoccurrence.  Click here for a list of exercises suitable for Hamstring Strain

Biomechanical Analysis  -   If there are significant mechanical problems insoles or specific trainers may improve your leg position and help avoid further injuries.  A biomechanical assessment by a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist will determine whether insoles or specific trainers would be of benefit.

Physiotherapy  -  If exercise alone does not improve symptoms then physiotherapy treatment may be required.  A physiotherapist can use specific treatments including, ultrasound, deep friction, massage, interferential, acupuncture or taping to help relieve pain and aid recovery. Click here for more information about Physiotherapy.
Injections  -  In some cases your GP or Consultant may recommend an injection.  These can be used to reduce inflammation and pain when the symptoms are severe and constant.  This is not a 'cure' and it is important to follow the exercises and modify activities.  A 'Cortisone Injection' can help reduce inflammation in the tendon, whilst a 'PRP Injection' (Platelet Rich Plasma) can help to stimulate healing.
Surgery  -  This is not common for Hamstring Strain.  In some cases when symptoms are persistent surgery may be considered.    
Remember an important part of treatment for Hamstring strain your home exercises and modifying activities.