Hamstring Injury: Treatment and Prevention

A hamstring injury, whether it be from a strain, pull, or tear, is one of the most common and frustrating injuries for runners. It is very important to be cautious with a hamstring injury because a small strain can turn into a serious tear if you do not give your body the chance to heal.

Causes Of Hamstring Injury

A hamstring injury can occur when a runner incorporates intense speed work and racing into his or her training without easing into the workload. 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 preventing a hamstring injury. As with many running injuries, it is also important to make sure that are running on good, stable running shoes that have less than 500 miles of use.

How to Treat a Hamstring Injury

The first rule about a hamstring injury is to understand that more stretching is not always beneficial. 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: The RICE methods is one of the best ways to combat a hamstring injury. The first letter, R, stands for “Rest.” It is critical that you do not run if you feel any hamstring pain. Instead, take a few days off and allow your body to recover. If you run while feeling pain you are further damaging the muscle and prolonging your recovery. The second letter, I, stands for “Ice.” The best way to ice a hamstring injury is to freeze water in a paper cup. Once frozen, take the block of ice out of the cup and roll it over your sore area for 10 minutes. The third letter, C, stands for “Compression.” After icing your hamstring, wrap it in an ace bandage or towel. The final letter, E, stands for “Elevation.” Once you have wrapped your hamstring, lie on your back and put your leg on a chair. Keep the hamstring elevated for at least 10 minutes. Try to repeat this method at least 2-3 times per day.

  • NSAIDs for Hamstring Injury: “NSAID,” which stands for Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug, include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These products help to reduce inflammation in damaged muscle tissue. This can help reduce pain and get you back to running quickly. However, do not use this drugs for more than two weeks at any one time because they can be hard on the kidneys.

  • Gentle stretching: Once you start to feel some relief from your hamstring injury, try to incorporate some gentle stretching. 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: If you do not find relief from the above methods, it is advisable to see a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist as soon as possible. If you have a stubborn hamstring injury, there is a chance that you could have an underlying bio-mechanical problem or scar tissue in your muscle. These complications require professional treatment.

  • Track your running: In order to prevent a hamstring injury from occuring, consider tracking your training with a running log. Logging your mileage and workouts will allow you to uncover past training mistakes, such as running too many miles too soon and adding too much intensity to your speed workouts.

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