What Causes Hamstring Pain and How’s It Treated

What causes hamstrings pain?

Hamstring strain occurs when the muscles around your back (the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and semimembranosus) are overstretched due to sitting or standing up too long. When this happens, they pull on the front of your thigh bone (femur). If left untreated, it will cause pain in the area where these three muscles attach to your leg bones.

When does it happen?

It can occur at any age but most commonly occurs with aging. It may also affect women more than men. Most often it is caused by sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time. However, it can also be caused by running, jumping rope, bicycling, playing sports, and other activities that involve high-impact movements such as weight lifting and sprinting.

How is it treated?

The first step in treating hamstring strain is to stop doing the activity that caused the problem. If you have been sitting all day, take a break from sitting and stand up slowly. You can then continue to do light exercise until your pain subsides. If your pain persists, see a doctor immediately because this could be a sign of more severe damage or even tendon rupture.

Your doctor will first ask you questions about your pain, such as when it started, how long it has lasted, how it feels, and what makes it better or worse. He or she may also examine the affected area and may ask you to perform certain tasks to see how much your pain is affected by movements.

Treatment for hamstring strain may include:

Rest: This is always the first step of treatment. For the first 1-2 days, you should rest the hamstring and avoid activities that cause pain. Ice: Applying ice or cold therapy can help reduce pain and inflammation.

You can use an ice pack, put ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel, or put crushed ice in a towel. Apply it to the painful area for 15 minutes every 3-4 hours during the day for the first 48 hours. Anti-inflammatory medication: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or another nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug can help reduce pain and swelling. Your doctor may also give you a prescription-strength NSAID. Physical therapy: Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist who can help treat your hamstring strain through exercise. At first, your physical therapist will have you do isometric exercises to build up the strength of your hamstrings while it heals. As your hamstring gets stronger, they will have you progress to regular exercises. Hamstring stretches will also be incorporated into your therapy.


Keep in mind these tips when caring for a pulled hamstring:

Do not exercise the affected area. If you do, you may make your condition worse.

Apply ice or cold therapy to alleviate pain and swelling.

Raise the injured leg as an elevation to reduce swelling. This is done by raising the leg on two chairs.

Wear a walking brace or elastic support to help support your hamstring.

If you work at a job that requires you to be seated or mostly sitting, get up and walk around every hour. Take phone calls on the move; don’t just sit and talk.

When you begin exercising again, do not do any activity that causes pain, especially when it first begins to hurt.

Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist who can help speed up your recovery.

Most hamstring strains heal within 4-8 weeks, but it is best not to push yourself too hard and to give it enough time to heal.

If you suffer from a hamstring injury on a regular basis or if the pain does not subside, see your physician immediately.

If you have persistent pain or if the hamstring pain interferes with your ability to perform daily activities, it is best to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Key points Hamstring injury Common in athletes and fitness buffs. The hamstrings are prone to injury due to the nature of their work. They are located at the back of the leg and provide a great deal of power when running or jumping.

The three ham strings are the semimembranosus, semitendonosus, and the biceps femoris muscles. Symptoms include sudden pulling or tearing sensation in the back of the leg. Acute pain and tenderness around the hamstring area. Difficulty in walking or rising from a seated position. Treat with R.I.C.E at first and if injury is more severe, a doctor’s visit is necessary.

Resources Books Dolan, Kathleen. Hamstring Injury Handbook. Larkspur Press, 2007.

Pp. 112. ISBN: 1-894963-40-4. Online “Hamstring Muscle.” Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, 16 Dec. 2008. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. .

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