Hamstring Injuries

Hamstring acute injury

An acute hamstring injury can happen in a variety of different ways, with the one common factor that there is a sudden pain in the muscles, which is directly related to a particular movement or incident. Visit our podiatrist in Irvine

The hamstring muscles or their tendons may tear as a result of an over-stretch injury, for instance if you have to sprint suddenly when you are cold, or when your muscles are tightened because of a previous strain, or fatigue from training hard the previous day. Over-stretching may happen if your foot slips forward when your leg is straight in front of you, for instance as you land during hurdling. A direct blow to the hamstrings while they are contracting can tear the muscles. You may be hit by a hockey ball or a squash racket while you are running fast. Inefficient muscle function can also contribute to sudden tears in the hamstrings.

What you feel is a sudden pain in the hamstrings, which may be no more than a twinge, up to a searing pain. You may see bruising, immediately, or some time after the injury has happened, and the bruising, with perhaps swelling, will tend to track downwards towards the knee. If there is a severe tear, you may see a knot of tissue forming a bump on the thigh, especially if you work the hamstrings by trying to bend your knee. After the initial pain, the torn part feels sore to touch, and gives pain in the same area whenever you contract the hamstrings, either by extending your hip or bending your knee; and when you stretch the muscles, by keeping your leg straight and bending forwards at the hips.

A severe hamstring tear, involving a lot of muscle tissue, may need to be stitched together again by a specialist surgeon. However, if the tear is more minor, your podiatrist may decide that you need no more than a conventional rehabilitation programme, which you must follow completely.

A gradual pain in the hamstrings injury, directly related to a particular movement or activity, is usually termed a hamstring 'pull' or 'strain'. This injury happens for similar reasons to the acute tear. The muscles are tight, fatigued, or weakend, and are then strained by overwork. Overtraining, especially if this involves repetitive movements, is a common cause of hamstring overuse strains.

By definition, the overuse strain starts with only a very slight pain, which gradually gets worse, as you continue with the activity which caused the problem. Occasionally, the pain is only evident when you work the hamstrings against resistance in their least efficient range, lying on your stomach with your knee held bent to a right angle, and extending your leg backwards at the hip.

The problem with overuse injuries to the hamstring is that they tend to recur. Even if they do not develop to the stage of an acute tear, they limit your ability to run, sprint, hop, and stretch your leg out. Specialist treatment may include injections, and various forms of physiotherapy. But the most important factor in recovery is regaining full flexibility in the muscles, and efficient function. If you try to resume your sport before you have completed the whole recovery process, you are making a recurrence of the problems inevitable.

A mild hamstring injury may recover within ten days to two weeks, but a more severe problem can last for over three months. If your hamstring injury does not improve, despite careful rehabilitation, it may be that there is an underlying problem. Hamstring pain and spasm can be caused by a stress fracture in the thigh-bone.

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