Pulled Hamstring: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Hamstring refers to a group of muscles located at the back of the thighs that enable the bending of the leg at the knee joint. Pulled Hamstring or straining of the hamstring muscles is a common injury borne by athletes, runners, basketball players, footballers, dancers, gymnasts and skaters.

There are three main muscles that constitute the hamstring; the biceps femoris semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus. These begin at the lower end of the pelvis and move down to the shin bone. Stretching and overuse of these muscles leads to pain which can be severe and may lead to tearing of the muscles. Mild hamstring pulls can heal on their own while severe tearing of the muscles require timely medical assistance. Hamstring Pulls can be graded as follows on the basis of their severity;

  • Grade I- Mild pain and discomfort may be experienced by the patient but the mobility will be intact. There could be some swelling and resistance while bending the knee of performing other activities
  • Grade II- The injured person may limp and experience swelling and pain particularly when the hamstring muscles are touched or when the knee is bent
  • Grade III- It is categorized as a severe injury involving partial or complete tearing of the hamstring accompanied by sharp pain, swelling, bruising and weakness in the limbs.

Causes

  • Running
  • Jumping or activities that involve sudden starts or stops
  • Inadequate or refraining from warm up exercise before an activity/sport
  • Tight quadriceps in front of the thighs may exert pull on the hamstring muscles
  • Presence of weak glutes (skeletal muscles in the buttock) may lead to straining of hamstrings
  • Medical conditions which arise in pelvis and lower back may become a cause for hamstring stress

Symptoms

  • Mild to severe pain depending on the severity of stretching/straining of the hamstring
  • Difficulty in standing or walking around
  • A feeling as if something has snapped/popped at the back of the thigh
  • Pain may radiate up to the buttocks when moved
  • Bruising, soreness and tenderness

Diagnosis

The doctor may conduct a physical examination of the affected area besides analyzing the cause of injury. MRI may help to assess the exact damage caused to the hamstrings.

Treatment

  • Resting the injured leg and refraining from any activity that stresses the thigh muscles
  • Use crutches if required to avoid putting weight on the leg
  • Apply ice packs at regular intervals
  • Soft elastic bandage/thigh support may be used for compression
  • Keep the injured leg elevated and provide support by placing a pillow under it
  • Pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs may help ease the pain
  • Physical therapy under supervision helps strengthen the muscles and prevent repeated straining
  • Surgery may be required in severe cases when the muscles are torn

For comprehensive treatment of Pulled Hamstring, visit OrthoTexas. To schedule an appointment with the orthopedic surgeons in Carrollton, TX, call at (972) 492 – 1334.

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