The term 'hamstrings' refers to a group of muscles called biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. This muscle group is located at the posterior section of the thigh. These muscles help us bend and flex the knee. These along with the quadriceps muscles play a vital role in facilitating movements such squatting, running, climbing, and jumping. An injury to this muscle is known as a pulled hamstring. This is one of the most common types of leg injury that occurs due to stretching of muscle fibers which in turn may lead to development of tears within the muscle.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
Athletes and sportsmen are more prone to this type of injury. Pain, tightness, swelling and bruising along the posterior portion of the thigh are some of the characteristic signs of such an injury. The affected individual may be unable to flex or bend the knee or put weight on the leg that is affected by such an injury. Indulging in physical activities that cause stretching of the muscles beyond the tolerable limit could make a person susceptible to such an injury. Those who don't perform stretches before indulging in such activities are certainly more likely to suffer from such an injury. Muscle imbalance, poor conditioning, and muscle fatigue are other risk factors. There are a number of factors that determine the time an affected individual may take to recover from a hamstring strain.
Recovering from a Pulled Hamstring
Following the rehabilitation plan chalked out by the doctor is an essential part of the recovery process. There are a lot of things that you need to take care of during the recovery period so that the injury heals quickly. The aim of the rehab program is to alleviate the symptoms and improve the flexibility and muscle strength so as restore the range of motion.
Drug therapy and RICE protocol are an integral part of the treatment. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation, which are the four most important things to be done while caring for a hamstring strain.
» It is extremely essential to take rest and not indulge in any strenuous activity before the muscles have healed completely. It is extremely important to avoid any damage or injury to this muscle group during this period.
» It is advised that ice packs be applied for 15 minutes as many times a day as possible.
» Compression bandages must be applied on the injured area to reduce the swelling.
» The leg should be kept in an elevated position so as to prevent blood from accumulating in the injured area.
The most important factor determining the recovery time is the severity of the strain. Hamstring strains are graded into Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 strain. While Grade 1 is a mild injury, Grade 2 is a moderately severe type of injury. A Grade 3 strain is the most severe type of injury.
The healing time largely depends upon the severity of the strain. Another important factor is the type of treatment administered and how well the body responds to it. Here's some information on the healing time based on the grades.
A Grade 1 strain is characterized by tightness in the thigh, discomfort while walking and a little swelling. This type of an injury will take a couple of weeks to heal completely. It is essential to take rest. While cold compresses administered within 48 hours of the injury may provide temporary relief, medical assistance needs to be sought in order to ascertain the extent of the injury.
A grade 2 strain is characterized by limping, swelling, and inability to straighten the knee. The affected individual may also experience severe but occasional muscle pain in the posterior thigh. It may take anywhere between four to six weeks for such an injury to heal completely. It is extremely essential to follow the aftercare measures. One must not put weight on the affected leg. Treatment needs to be continued for most of the time until recovery.
A Grade 3 strain is characterized by an inability to walk, severe throbbing pain, and swelling. While the treatment will involve drug therapy, it is best to use crutches so that pressure is not exerted on the damaged muscle. Surgery may be required in case of a hamstring avulsion or severe injuries where the conservative treatment is not providing the desired outcome. The affected individual may have to wear a knee splint in order to speed up the healing process. It may take about three to four months to fully recover from a Grade 3 strain.
The time one would take to recover from such an injury entirely depends on how well you follow the regimen. For complete recovery, the affected individual needs to remain committed to the rehab regimen. Once the inflammation and pain has subsided, it would be best to go for physiotherapy sessions. Gentle stretches and flexibility exercises must be performed to improve the range of motion. Strengthening exercises are to be performed after the injury has healed considerably. Massage, therapeutic ultrasound, and electrical stimulation therapy can also be resorted to for realigning the muscle fiber and minimizing the scar tissue. It is advisable to consult your doctor to know when it is safe to resume work or return to sports or strenuous activities.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.