The hamstring plays an important role in the body’s ability to move and overall mobility. This group of muscles rests at the back of thigh where it allows the knee to bend and move. Whether you’re walking, jogging, running jumping or performing a variety of other physical activities, the hamstring keeps you mobile at the knees. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for injuries to occur within this muscle group, resulting pain, inflammation and limited mobility.
The most common type of hamstring injury is a strain. This occurs when the muscle fibers are pulled and stretched beyond their normal range of motion; thus, creating small but painful tears. Athletes, bodybuilders and teenagers going through growth spurts have the highest risk of developing a hamstring strain.
Hamstring strains may present a wide range of symptoms, including mild-to-severe pain, inflammation, inability to comfortably bend the affected knee, snapping or popping feeling when exercising, pain shooting down through the thigh and buttocks, bruising and tenderness. If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, talk with your physician or chiropractor to see if you have a hamstring injury.
In severe cases, the muscle fibers of the hamstring can be torn to the point where the individual can no longer stand or walk. This type of injury typically occurs from direct physical trauma as opposed to overexertion. Severe hamstring injuries such as this require longer to heal; therefore, it’s critical that the individual rests and doesn’t place an extra weight or tension on the damaged muscle fibers.
Following the rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) rule may help subside some of the unpleasant symptoms associated with a hamstring injury. An ice compress discourages blood flow to the area, which should reduce swelling and pain. Elevating the affected thigh has a similar effect by keeping blood away from the injured area. The exact length of time for recovery depends on the severity of the hamstring injury, but it usually takes around 2-6 weeks for most injuries.
Arguably, the single most important step in recovering from a hamstring injury is rest. Continuing to participate in a sport, exercise or any other physical activity after you’ve torn the muscle fibers here places you at risk for further injury. The already damaged muscle fibers can tear easily, making the injury worse and requiring a greater length of time to heal.
Listen to your body and refrain from strenuous activities if you are suffering from a hamstring injury. Most hamstring injuries take about 2-6 weeks to heal, but you could find yourself cooped up indoors for longer if you continue to tear down these muscle fibers.
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