Hamstring strain: causes and treatments

Hamstring strain is a common condition. These are 3 muscles that are located in the back of the leg. They originate in the pelvis and insert into the knee joint. Through them, the leg can be flexed.

What happens with a hamstring strain is that the muscle fibers are overstretched. This can cause mobility to be impaired. In addition, it is an injury that causes pain and functional disability.

What are hamstrings?

As we noted in the introduction, the hamstrings are 3 different muscles: the biceps femoris, the semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus. They are all located on the back of the thigh.

When talking about hamstring strain, it is sometimes referred to as a tendon injury. However, it is more correct to reserve this term to refer to a tear or rupture of the muscle fibers.

The hamstring muscles allow for the flexion movement of the leg. That is, as if we were pulling the calves up and back, bringing the heel closer to the gluteus. This action is a fundamental gesture for activities such as running or jumping.

When a hamstring strain occurs, there is often a sudden, sharp pain. Also, it is aggravated when trying to contract or stretch. According to the specialists of KidsHealthAnother of the signs is an unusual sensitivity to touch in the back of the leg. There may be bruising and weakness, which lasts a long time.

The strain and the difference between it happening in muscles or ligaments is very fine and may require imaging studies for confirmation.

Common causes of hamstring strain

Hamstring strain is a very common injury in athletes. Especially in people who usually carry out activities that include sprints and jumps. For example, in sports such as athletics, soccer, or basketball.

Although it can appear at any age, the highest incidence is in adolescents who are in full growth. This is because they tend to participate more in these types of sports. Another reason is that, in some cases, the bones of the leg grow faster than the muscles.

The strain in the hamstrings It may be related to not warming up properly before exercise. It can also be due to muscle overexertion that causes the muscles to be stiff or tired.

Another cause is intrinsic weakness. If subjected to rough or exhaustive stress, damage is common. It can even appear if not enough recovery time is allowed between training sessions.

Degrees of injury and diagnosis

Hamstring strain can be classified according to its severity into 3 degrees:

  • In grade 1 there is a mild muscle strain, as explained in an article published on the NHS.
  • Grade 2 is a partial muscle tear.
  • Grade 3 has a complete tear.

This classification also helps guide recovery time from injury. The higher the grade, the longer it will take for healing.

Symptoms also vary based on this classification. A grade 1 hamstring strain causes pain when trying to flex or stretch those muscles. However, the injury is mild, so leg strength as such is not usually affected.

In grade 3, on the other hand, mobility is significantly affected. In addition, both in grade 2 and 3 there are usually bruises and swelling in the area.

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Treatments for strained hamstrings

Treatment for a hamstring strain will depend on the severity of the injury. However, there are a number of measures that are put in place at the time the tear occurs to avoid pain or discomfort.

The first thing is to keep the leg at rest, avoiding any physical activity that involves straining the muscles. Also, cold compresses can be applied to the back of the thigh several times a day.

In some cases it is recommended to use crutches to avoid overloading. Compression bandages can even be used to decrease swelling. However, the most suitable for pain are pain relievers prescribed by a professional.


According to the specialists of the Mayo Clinic, in some cases of strain in the hamstrings, surgery may be indicated. Especially if the muscle tear is very serious. As well used to treat cases where the muscle has come loose from its insertion.


Physical therapy is one of the mainstays of hamstring strain treatment. Helps strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. This reduces the risk of the same or similar injury occurring again.

The exercise program must be supervised. In addition, the return to sport should be done gradually. Ideally, begin with gentle stretching when the symptoms of bloating begin to decrease.

Pain in the thigh is the primary symptom of this condition, as well as the possible appearance of bruises in the most severe degrees.

How is hamstring strain prevented?

Hamstring strain can be prevented. For this we must remember that one of the related causes is the lack of adequate heating. Therefore, Taking time to warm up your muscles and body before exercise is essential.

In the same way, avoid doing rough or too intense workouts. The routine must be adjusted to our physical form and health conditions.

Training sessions should increase their intensity gradually. In this way, you avoid subjecting your muscles to sudden overexertion. Another important measure is stretch after each session.

On the other hand, you should not try to exercise again very quickly after this injury. The recovery period can last for months and it is essential to try to return to the routine little by little.

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Hamstring strain can be very disabling

Hamstring strain is an injury that affects the back of the thigh. These muscles are involved in numerous daily activities, as they allow the leg to flex.

Pain and recovery time will depend on the severity of the injury. However, even in mild cases there is usually limited mobility. Therefore, it is essential to always try prevention.

For this you have to strengthen the muscles and be careful when exercising. It is essential to always warm up well before physical activity. In the same way, if there is any kind of discomfort or suspicion, you should consult a specialist.

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