The hamstrings are the posterior thigh muscles, and more specifically as the semimembranosis, the semitendinosis, and the biceps femoris muscles. These muscles span the thigh, crossing both the hip and the knee. They work to extend the hip as well as flex the knee. Injuries can vary from a minor sprain (grade 1) to a major tear (grade 3) or full rupture of the tendon off the bone. Injuries can occur from a variety of activities such as rapid deceleration or acceleration in sprinting, jumping injuries or over-lunging to a base in baseball. Generally grade 1 and 2 injuries may heal themselves with rest, ice then stretching, strengthening and gentle return to functional activities as tolerated. Most of the time manual therapy can help healing tissue repair faster, restore strength and mobility and return you to function quicker. Grade 3 injuries will generally take longer to heal as there is more trauma to the area.
Chronic hamstring injuries or injuries that show up progressively tend to have a lot more involvement with other parts of the body. More aggressive tears of the hamstring can scar to the sciatic nerve causing nerve tension to be a cause of pain. Back problems can also refer pain to the hamstrings and the tailbone can be out of alignment, which can present as a high hamstring tear. Generally we see weakness of the core muscles and a lack of an anchor for the leg to push off of leading to overuse of the hamstrings in our runners with chronic hamstring pain. Running posture is also addressed to make the body more efficient and decrease excessive force into the hamstrings. Generally manual techniques to restore mobility and strength, core exercises and eccentric hamstring exercises compose a good rehabilitation program.
Risk factors for hamstring injuries include: muscle tightness, muscle imbalance (dominant quad muscles), poor conditioning, prior injury, muscle fatigue, age and high risk activity (sprinters, running, dancers.)David Potucek, MSPT has been practicing orthopedics and sports physical therapy since graduating with a Masters Degree in Physical Therapy from Springfield College in 2004. David has worked in a variety of practice settings, treating a multitude of orthopedic, sports, and neurological patient populations. David joined the EHS Physical Therapy Team in 2008. Elite Health Services, located in Old Greenwich, (and now Westport!) CT is a world-class provider of certified functional manual physical therapy, personal fitness, golf & triathlon performance training, massage therapy and wellness related services. Our team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals take a no-excuses approach to providing exceptional care and delivering exceptional results. To learn more visit www.EliteHealthServices.