Hamstring strain is among the most common injury in sports. The hamstring is comprised of 3 muscles in the back of the leg as shown in the diagram below – the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. They play an important role in extending the hip and bending the knee – movements that are very important in running. Due to this, they are commonly injured during high intensity activity.
Hamstring strains are categorized according to grades – a grade 1 strain is classified as being the least severe with grade 3 being a complete tissue rupture severely limiting functional capacity. The time it takes to recover will depend on the grade of the strain – ensure that you get assessed by a health professional to ensure there is no premature return to sport in the case of higher grade strains.
Following the initial injury, the damaged tissue will feel warm and painful due to the inflammatory processes occurring. One should ice the injured area during this stage– it is believed that the cold reduces the metabolic rate of the tissue thus reducing the amount of tissue death and the time required to repair the damage – thus allowing a quicker return to function or sport. It is at this stage that rehabilitation will revolve around rest and pain management.
After the pain has settled, your health practitioner will then prescribe you with exercises for the rehabilitation of the strained muscle. Here are a few possible exercises that you may be given:
1) Eccentric hamstring in supine
This exercise will often be prescribed in the early stages of rehabilitation. To do this, lie on you back with your knees bent. Keep a firm hold on the back of your leg. Straighten the leg out prior to feeling a stretch. Then return in a controlled manner back to the starting position and repeat.
2) Double leg bridges
Lying on your back, bend your knees and keep your foot flat on the bed. Ensure you contract your bottom (to promote a posterior pelvic tilt) prior to lifting your bottom off the bed. Hold at the top for 3 seconds then lower down slowly. This can be progressed to single leg or completed on an unstable surface like a swiss ball.
Using a stable surface like a chair, lift your “good” leg and rest it there while keeping the affected leg on the ground. Using your opposite arm, reach down towards the opposing ankle ensuring that the knee has a slight bend in it throughout the movement. Then return. This can be progressed by holding onto weights (as shown in the picture) or being completed without the support of a chair.
These are only example of several exercises that can be given and is not suitable for everyone. Ensure that you see one of our health practitioners at Stay Tuned for a complete rehabilitation program if you ever find yourself with a hamstring strain.