Hamstring pain, whether it be from a hamstring pull or hamstring tear, is one of the most common and frustrating injuries for runners. I urge caution with this injury because a small hamstring strain can turn into a hamstring tear if you do not give your body the chance to heal.
Causes Of Hamstring Pain
Hamstring injuries occur when runners incorporate intense speed work and racing into their training without easing into the workload. In my experience, high intensity, short intervals (100-400 meter repeats) especially put athletes at risk for hamstring pain. Be sure to lightly stretch your muscles before and after taking part in these kinds of speed sessions. While stretching is important to prevent hamstring injuries, it is also essential that runners do not overstretch. Overstretching the muscle (to the point of the stretch causing pain) can partially tear the hamstring. Finding a stretching balance between too little and too much is key in assuring hamstring health. As with many running injuries, it is also important to make sure that you have good shoes when combating hamstring pain.
How to Treat and Cure Hamstring Injuries
The first rule about hamstring pain is to understand that more stretching is not always good. In fact, trying to overstretch an already injured hamstring can cause the injury to last weeks or months longer than it should. Instead of obsessively stretching the muscle, try these remedies:
RICE: RICE stands for “rest, ice, compression, and elevation”. It is the default treatment for essentially any running injury. The first letter, “R”, is perhaps the most important. If you are feeling hamstring pain, don’t try to tough it out! Take at least two days off and give your body a chance to heal! As for the last three letters, I have found that the best way to to carry out “ICE” is to follow this method: 1) Freeze water in a paper cup in the freezer, 2) When frozen, take the block of ice out of the freezer and roll it over the affected area for about 10 minutes, 3) Afterward, wrap an ace bandage or towel around your leg and, while lying on your back, prop your leg up on a chair, 4) After 10 minutes, take the towel/ace bandage off and repeat steps 1-3, 5) Try to do this at least 2-3 times per day.
NSAIDs: “NSAID” stands for Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug. NSAIDs include Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Motrin IB), Naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs do a great job at reducing inflammation in the body and promoting healing. While these drugs may help you if you are hurt, please be careful not to abuse the drugs. Only take them for about a 2 week period because extended use can really do bad things to your kidneys. I have heard some horror stories about runners who used NSAIDs for months on end who are now suffering from serious kidney issues. Therefore, use NSAIDs if you have a hamstring problem, but please don’t overuse them.
LIGHT stretching: If your hamstring starts to feel better, incorporate some very light stretching to increase mobility and lengthen the muscle a bit to promote healing. As stated above, be very careful not to overstretch. One good way to stretch the hamstring is lie on your back with your affected leg propped up against a doorway, and your other leg flat on the ground. If this is painful at all…STOP! Also, try to lightly stretch your quads and calves. I have found that having tight quads (including hip flexors) and calves can sometimes lead to hamstring issues.
See a professional: To be honest, if you really want to cure your hamstring pain, stop reading this page and go see a professional sports medicine physician and/or a physical therapist as soon as possible. Also consider seeing a good massage therapist. Sometimes massage therapists can work wonders in breaking up scar tissue in hamstrings and nursing them back to their pre-injury condition. These health professionals can help you get back to running far quicker than any advice that I can offer you.
Keep a running log: Although a running log will not cure an injury, it can help you discover why an injury occurred. By tracking your workouts, you will be able to find errors in your training (i.e. not taking enough rest) that cause injuries to happen. Without the help of a running log, it is highly likely that you will continually repeat past training errors and suffer future injuries. The best way to start keeping a log is to sign up for a Runner’s Resource online running log.
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