The hamstrings are one of the most commonly-injured muscle groups. In addition, more than 2/3 of all athletes who experience a hamstring injury will suffer a re-injury within one year. As such, knowing how to recover completely is something that everyone should be familiar with.
Causes of Hamstring Injuries
Knowing what causes a hamstring injury will go a long way toward helping you prevent it. Some of the most common causes of hamstring injuries include:
- Failing to warm up properly before a workout, or stretching muscles while they are cold
- Improper footwear
- Not providing adequate rest after an injury
- Running extended distances on a hard surface
- An imbalance in strength between the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles
Three different muscles collectively make up the hamstrings. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin have determined that the outer biceps femoris muscle of the hamstrings is under the most strain whenever the leg is moving forward, and is therefore the one most often injured.
Signs of an Injury
Unlike other sports injuries, hamstring strains are fairly easy to recognize. They are characterized by sudden and severe pain while exercising, and are often accompanied by a snapping sound or popping feeling. A hamstring injury may produce pain in the back of the thigh that makes it difficult to straighten the affected leg. Tenderness, bruising, and swelling may be present as well. At the first sign of a hamstring strain, you should stop exercising and begin treatment to avoid a more serious muscle tear.
Treating a Hamstring Injury
A hamstring injury requires sufficient rest in order to heal. Avoid putting any weight on your leg, and consider using crutches if you must walk or stand for an extended period. Elevate your leg while alternating between ice and heat every 20 to 30 minutes. Anti-inflammatory medication can help alleviate swelling and make pain easier to manage. Sports creams along with an elastic bandage could be beneficial as well. Light massage two or three times each day will help with blood flow, while also helping to eliminate achiness.
Expected Recovery Time
There is no set recovery period for a hamstring injury. The amount of recovery time you need will depend upon the extent of your injury, your age, and how easily your body heals. You will know when your leg has healed sufficiently when you are able to move it as freely as you do your uninjured limb. So long as you are experiencing any pain whatsoever, your leg has not healed and you are not ready to begin exercising again. Pushing yourself to exercise before you are completely healed could result in a muscle tear that might require surgery in order to repair.
Hamstring injuries are something no one wants to experience, as they can seriously hamper your fitness progress. Taking measures to prevent an injury and seeking early treatment are important if you are to minimize the amount of damage a hamstring strain might cause.