You are running along the track when you suddenly experience a sharp pain in your upper thigh muscles – this is a very common condition known as hamstring strain that affects mostly sportspersons, especially runners. This is because hamstrings are not used much during walking or standing but are extremely active when it comes to bending the knee, which happens extensively while running.
What is a hamstring injury?
Hamstrings are tendons located at the back of thighs, which join the large muscle of the thigh to the bone. Another definition of the term is used to refer to the group comprising three muscles running along the back of your thigh, from your hip to just below your knee.
When the hamstring experiences a strain or tear to the tendons/large muscles at the back, it is called a hamstring injury. As stated before, it occurs in athletes frequently, but the severities are different. The injury can be grouped into 3 categories:
Grade 1 – It denotes a muscle strain that is mild and doesn’t feel too painful.
Grade 2 – It happens when there is a partial muscle tear,
Grade 3 – The most painful of the lot, this occurs when there is a full-fledged muscle tear.
Depending on the severity of the injuries, the time for it to heal can be determined. As is evident, Grade 3, being the most serious out of the three, can take weeks or months to heal properly.
What causes hamstring injuries?
The hamstring muscles essentially help you to extend your leg behind the body and bend your knee. When the tendons and muscles are stretched beyond the limit, it can lead to injuries. Activities such as jumping, climbing, or sprinting involve sudden, explosive movements that can trigger the strain. If there is a tear, a pop sound might be felt or heard, with excruciating pain right after that.
What are its symptoms?
Watching out for symptoms is vital so that you know if there is something wrong. Mild strains usually don’t hurt that much, while serious ones can actually be agonizing. Symptoms include:
As mentioned, sudden and harsh painful sensations during exercising, with a popping or snapping feeling.
Aches in the back of the thigh and lower buttock during walking, bending over, or straightening the leg.
The muscles might spasm and feel tender and light.
Swelling and bruising are also common occurrences.
Whenever you feel discomfort in the affected area it is necessary that you talk to a doctor right away instead of hiding it. Minor to moderate strains don’t take much time for recovery; in fact they can heal on their own without assistance. Here are a few tips you can follow:
Rest the leg as much as possible. Try to avoid putting any weight on the leg as best as you can. In case the pain is severe and hampers walking, use crutches till the injury is healed.
Icing always provides relief from pain and helps to reduce swelling. It should be done for 20 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. Do it for 2 to 3 days till you feel the pain go away.
Compressing your leg is a must. Wrap an elastic bandage around the leg to keep down swelling.
Put your leg up on a pillow when you are sitting and even lying down.
There are several anti-inflammatory painkillers that can be helpful during this time such as ibuprofen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or naproxen. They help to bring down the swelling and pain. However, you need to talk to a doctor in order to know which ones will be best suited for you and the correct dosage as well. Don’t try any medications on your own.
Stretching and strengthening exercises can help to ease the pain slowly. Your doctor might suggest a few simple ones too. The best way to prevent such strain is to ensure your hamstring muscles are kept strong.
When the injury involves muscle tear, a surgery might be required for repairing and reattaching the muscles correctly.
What are the ways to prevent hamstring strains?
Hamstrings injuries can be quite nasty, so you should take steps to prevent them from occurring. Remember – healing is always tougher than avoiding something. Take a look:
Ensure that you stretch before and after performing physical activities.
The intensity of your training and physical activity needs to be increased slowly so that the body can adjust accordingly, which shouldn’t be more than 10% a week.
Don’t continue with exercising if you feel any pain.
Strong hamstring muscles are very important to runners, because if you can’t use them, it will affect your speed greatly. Please ensure you take good care and follow the necessary steps in case there is a chance of strain or tear.
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