Hamstring Strains: Why They Occur and How to Heal Naturally

Impact Physical Therapy PLLC
November 9, 2023
Minute Read

Hamstring strains are among the most common setbacks athletes and fitness enthusiasts face. These muscle strains can sideline even the most dedicated individuals, making accurate diagnosis and treatment crucial for recovery. In this comprehensive guide, we'll unpack everything you need to know about hamstring strains, backed by evidence-based practices that we champion at Impact Physical Therapy.

Anatomy of the Hamstrings

Before diving into the nitty-gritty of strains, let’s understand the structure. The hamstrings consist of three main muscles:

  • Biceps femoris
  • Semitendinosus
  • Semimembranosus

Stretching from the pelvis and ending just below the knee, these muscles play a pivotal role in bending the knee and extending the hip. Their function makes them vital for activities like running, jumping, and climbing. Understanding the role of these muscles lays the foundation for comprehending the nuances of hamstring injuries and their recovery.

Understanding Hamstring Strains: From Pulled Hamstring to Graded Tears

A hamstring strain, often called a 'pulled hamstring,' refers to a tear in one or more of the hamstring muscles or their tendons. They're categorized into:

  • Grade I: Mild strain with few muscle fibers torn.
  • Grade II: Moderate strain with more muscle fibers affected but not completely ruptured.
  • Grade III: Severe strain, indicating a complete muscle tear.

Causes of Hamstring Strains

The onset of hamstring strains can be traced back to a combination of factors:

  • Muscle Overload: Sudden or excessive force, such as sprinting, can lead to strains.
  • Muscle Imbalance: The quadriceps muscles (at the front of the thigh) might overpower the hamstrings, causing them to stretch beyond their limit.
  • Fatigue: Exhausted muscles lose their ability to absorb shock and bear load, leading to injuries.
  • Insufficient Warm-Up: A lack of proper warm-up restricts blood flow and muscle elasticity.

The Crucial Role of Clinical Examination

At Impact Physical Therapy, a precise clinical examination forms the bedrock of our diagnostic approach, ensuring precision in understanding and addressing hamstring injuries and hamstring pain. Let's break down the stages of this critical process:

  • Patient Interview: This involves gathering details about how thehamstring  injury occurred, understanding the pain levels, and discussing any previous injuries.
  • Palpation: By feeling the affected area, our therapists can determine the exact site of tenderness or pain, indicating the injury's location.
  • Range of Motion (ROM) Testing: Assessing the hip and knee's passive and active ROM offers insights into the injury's effect on mobility.
  • Strength Tests: Evaluating the strength of the hamstring muscles compared to the unaffected leg provides information on the injury's severity.
  • Specialized Tests: Specific tests, such as the Active Knee Extension Test or the Bent-Knee Stretch Test, can further pinpoint the injury's location and grade.

Clinical examinations, combined with imaging techniques like MRI when necessary, offer a comprehensive view of hamstring injuries, facilitating the creation of a tailored treatment plan for hamstring injury recovery and pulled hamstring treatment.

Proven Physical Therapy Techniques for Hamstring Strains

At Impact Physical Therapy, our approach to hamstring injury treatment incorporates proven physical therapy techniques, focusing on effective and personalized interventions for hamstring strains and hamstring muscles pain.

A. Manual Therapy Techniques:

  • Deep Tissue Massage: This technique targets deeper muscle layers, enhancing blood circulation and initiating the healing process. This technique is instrumental in easing hamstring pain and fostering recovery.
  • Myofascial Release: By applying sustained pressure, therapists can release fascial tightness, helping restore muscle function.
  • Joint Mobilizations: Gentle movements of the hip and knee joints can improve their range of motion and alleviate pain.

These manual therapy techniques, integrated seamlessly into our comprehensive treatment plans, contribute to the successful therapy for pulled hamstring and the overall healing process for hamstring injury recovery.

B. Exercise-Based Interventions:

  • Isometric Strengthening: Exercises like hamstring bridges, where the muscle contracts without significant movement, can help in the initial stages of rehabilitation by reducing pain and preserving muscle strength, laying a solid foundation for hamstring injury recovery and pulled hamstring treatment.
  • Eccentric Strengthening: Gradually introduced exercises like Nordic hamstring curls emphasize lengthening the hamstring muscles under tension, proven to be effective in rehabilitating hamstring strains.
  • Static and Dynamic Stretching: While static stretches improve flexibility, dynamic stretches, introduced in the later stages, prepare the muscles for activity, contributing to hamstring injury treatment.
  • Proprioceptive Training: Techniques like balance exercises on wobble boards can restore muscle proprioception, an element in injury prevention and healing a hamstring injury.
  • Functional Training: Sport-specific exercises ensure a safe return to sports and other physical activities. This aspect of our exercise interventions enhances overall functionality and supports the transition from rehabilitation to regular activity, promoting healing hamstring strain and hamstring injury treatment.

Rehabilitation at Impact Physical Therapy: A Phased Approach

Rehabilitation at Impact Physical Therapy follows a carefully structured, phased approach designed for optimal hamstring injury recovery and pulled hamstring treatment.

Acute Phase (0-1 week): In the initial stage, the focus is on the R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to manage inflammation and pain. Alongside, gentle isometric exercises are introduced to preserve muscle strength, forming a foundational step in the recovery process from hamstring strains and hamstring muscles pain.

Subacute Phase (1-4 weeks): Gradual introduction of ROM exercises, static stretching, and strengthening exercises, ensuring the patient's comfort and pain-free movement.

Late Stage (4-8 weeks): Emphasis on functional and sport-specific exercises, dynamic stretching, and proprioceptive training to prepare for a return to full activity.

Return to Activity: The transition back to regular sports or workouts is gradual, ensuring that the hamstring is ready to handle the load and intensity. This final phase marks the successful completion of our comprehensive rehabilitation approach, facilitating a safe and sustainable return to daily activities while prioritizing healing hamstring strain.

Striding Towards Recovery

Hamstring strains, while common, require meticulous attention for optimal recovery. At Impact Physical Therapy, our evidence-based approach, combined with individualized care, ensures that patients recover swiftly and safely. If you suspect a hamstring strain, seeking timely intervention is crucial for the best outcomes.

Note: This article aims to inform and should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional regarding injuries and treatment options.