Hamstring strains and returning to running

A hamstring muscle strain refers to a tear in the muscle group which covers the back of the thigh. Most commonly occurs during running and sprinting activities, particularly during sport. This is because the muscle is contracted with excessive force in a stretched position.

Clients describe the sensation as a sudden sharp pain in the back of the thigh and sometimes a “Popping” sensation can be felt. Bruising may also appear around the area or lower down the leg following the injury.

Initially, it’s important to follow the PRICE protocol (as seen in our previous blog here ), avoid any excessive stretching of the hamstring and avoid changing the way you walk.

During a physiotherapy assessment, we can identify any factors that increased the risk of the hamstring strain to occur.

Examples of factors that increase the risk of a hamstring injury include:

  • Limited hamstring flexibility
  • Poor core stability
  • Muscle imbalance

Physiotherapy treatment will be focused on improving hamstring strength and correcting any muscle imbalances that may have contributed to the injury. Manual therapy is also used to increase hamstring flexibility.

Approximately one-third of hamstring strains will recur, with the highest risk for injury recurrence being within the first 2 weeks of return to sport. The consequences of recurrence are high as recurrent hamstring strains have been shown to result in significantly more time lost than first time hamstring strains. For these reasons, it’s important to ensure a graduated strengthening and stretching protocol has been followed. At Portland Physiotherapy, we can assess to see when you’re ready to return to sport and create a return to sport plan.

To prevent hamstring strains it’s important to regularly stretch and strengthen the hamstrings. Below are some examples of exercises that may be used to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings: