Treatments & Exercises for a Hamstring Injury
Your hamstring muscles are the three muscles that comprise the back of your thigh. Your hamstrings help to bend your lower leg at the knee and pull the leg backward, meaning you use the muscles for activities that involve running, dancing and kicking. Hamstring injuries are a common problem and are graded on a basis of 1 to 3 in terms of severity. In the most severe instances, a hamstring injury causes the tendon to tear away from your bone. If you experience a hamstring injury, engage in treatment techniques immediately to mitigate the injury’s severity and prevent future injuries.
A hamstring injury will cause pain and throbbing in the back of the leg. You also may experience some leg swelling. Immediate treatment should include resting the hamstring injury, especially avoiding repeating the exercise that caused the injury in the first place. Apply ice to the leg, holding the ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes on the affected area. Repeat this at least two additional times throughout your day to relieve inflammation. You may wish to apply a compression bandage around the thigh, which can help you to relieve swelling. Lying down and propping your leg on a few pillows can encourage blood and lymph flow away from the leg, reducing swelling.
When you experience a hamstring injury, you should continue anti-inflammatory treatments for at least 48 to 72 hours to allow the muscles sufficient time to begin the healing process. Wait at least three to four days after injury before applying heat because this can actually cause the blood vessels to swell more.
When your hamstring begins to feel less tender, you may wish to engage in stretching exercises to prevent the muscles from becoming too tense. You can stretch the hamstrings in several different ways. One that may be most comfortable is to extend the legs and lean slightly forward, feeling the stretch in the backs of your legs. Stay in this position for up to one minute, and then release the stretch. Repeat as needed. Another stretching method is placing your legs or injured leg up on a wall. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then release the stretch.
After your hamstring has had time to heal and no longer feels swollen or tender, you may wish to perform strengthening exercises. Stronger hamstring muscles help to reduce the likelihood of strain. Strengthen your hamstring muscles at home by lying on your stomach with your legs extended. You can wear ankle weights of 5 lbs. or less to increase the intensity of the exercise. Pull the ankles in toward your buttocks, feeling the hamstring muscles work. Repeat 10 to 15 times, rest and perform two additional sets. A similar exercise can be performed while on all fours. Extend one leg backward, raising it in line with your back. Bend at the knee to pull the foot in toward the buttocks. Repeat 10 to 15 times, then perform two additional sets.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.