Hamstrings are a group of strong muscles that line the back portion of the thigh, extending from the lower pelvis to the shin bone. They are responsible for flexibility of the knee joint and stretching of the hip. There are three primary types of hamstring muscles, namely, semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. These muscles function in coordination for sprinting and carrying out the leg movements. Injury to any of these muscles is referred to as a pulled hamstring.
As hamstring muscles are involved in the regular day-to-day activities including sports activities, they are very susceptible to irritation and injury. A direct blow in the back of the thigh may result in straining of the hamstrings. Also, a pulled muscle occurs frequently among sprinters, footballers, rugby players, and hurdle jumpers. Understanding the associated symptoms and hamstring care will help in quick recovery of this painful condition.
Pulled Hamstring Symptoms
In majority of the cases, a pulled hamstring occurs all of a sudden and is very painful. Based on the severity of the condition, pulled hamstrings are categorized under three grades. Grade I injuries are mild, with or without bleeding, while grade II injuries refer to partial tear in the muscles. The most severe case is grade III injury, which causes rupture of the hamstring muscles. Commonly manifested pulled hamstring symptoms are explained below.
- Pain - A sharp penetrating pain in the back of the thigh while performing high intensity sports activities.
- Swelling - In case of an injury with bleeding, accumulation of blood causes inflammation of the thigh portion.
- Bruising - Bruising in the back of the thigh and at times, below the knee are commonly manifested as signs of a pulled hamstring.
- Muscle Spasm - Spasms of the muscles associated with severe pain may also be felt.
- Contraction Problem - For those having a pulled hamstring, bending or flexing of the knee joint becomes very painful.
How to Care for a Pulled Hamstring
The approach treatment depends entirely on the severity of the muscle injury. A mild case of hamstring strain can be treated at home without therapeutic intervention, whereas a severe case might need surgical procedure. Nevertheless, irrespective of the grade of injury, adopting these effective remedies will help in combating the painful symptoms. Following are some personal care tips for a pulled hamstring.
Apply Cold Compresses
Immediately after the injury, apply ice packs for about 15 minutes over the affected area. This will aid in giving instant pain relief by numbing the area. You can apply cold compresses regularly for reducing the swelling and painful symptoms associated with a pulled muscle.
Stretching of the hamstring muscles and putting pressure on them will worsen the muscle irritation. Considering this, taking adequate rest is of utmost importance for addressing a pulled hamstring muscle. Do not indulge in activities that aggravate the spasms of the hamstring muscles.
Using the torn muscle again and again will aggravate the pain. You can use assisting aids like crutches, until the pulled hamstring is recovered totally. By doing so, you are diverting the stress of body weight on the device, rather than pressuring the strained muscle.
Wear Compression Bandage
Applying a compression bandage in a proper way is helpful to stop internal bleeding of the hamstring muscles (if any). Wearing a compression bandage also reduces swelling and inflammation in the affected thigh area. However, follow the correct instructions for wrapping it.
If possible, elevate the legs so that they reach the heart area. This will increase blood circulation and not cause fluid stagnation in the injured areas. You can seek advice from a physician regarding massage and stretching exercises for quick recovery from a pulled hamstring.
In addition to the above tips, the physician may prescribe medication to relieve pain and swelling. The recovery time for complete healing of hamstring strain also varies, depending upon the injury grade.
For example, the healing period for a grade I injury is about 1-2 weeks, while that of grade II injury requires at least 4-6 weeks for full recovery. A grade III injury is treated by surgical procedure, hence it requires about 3 months of complete rest. With adequate rest and proper care, complete healing of the pulled hamstring is achieved in nearly all patients.
Adequate warm-up and improved muscle flexibility is necessary before all sports activities to avoid a pulled hamstring. Also, for recurrent muscle spasms, it is recommended to see a doctor who can grade your injury and prescribe treatment accordingly.