The hamstring muscles run down the whole length of the back of the buttock to the back of the knee. The hamstrings consist of three muscles: the biceps femoris; semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus.
A hamstring strain may vary from slight with no tearing, to moderate strain with light tearing of the muscle or the tendon, to severe strain with a large muscle tear and/or complete rupture of the tendon.
This injury is particularly common in sprinters but is also fairly common in middle and even long distance runners. The injury can be due to long term over-use (ie. overtraining or too many races) or often from a sudden increase in pace (particularly from a very quick start).
A hamstring strain can vary from being fairly painful to extremely painful on movement.
Although the injury usually occurs very suddenly there will often, or virtually always, have been some underlying problem that has been going on for some time.
Most injuries are a process, they do not begin from a single event.
Most injuries are a process, they do not begin from a single event. Problems often build up over months and even years, often undetected by an athlete until one day there’s a sudden acute injury. That’s why it is important to stretch regularly, perform self massage regularly and pay visits to your osteopath who can treat any areas which could be a potential problem.
With hamstring strain there is virtually always a problem with the pelvis and low back alignment and mechanics. When there is a problem with the pelvis/low back region there will surely be an injury somewhere along the line, often with runners in the hamstrings or knees, but potentially anywhere in the whole musculoskeletal system.
The initial first aid treatment for a hamstring should be the famous RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). For the first day, ice for 15 minutes at a time, on and off through the day. In the following days when it starts to feel a bit easier, use alternate hot and cold showers (repeated three to five times) at least three times a day.
As soon as you can after the injury, see an osteopath or another sports therapist who uses neuromuscular or other deep soft tissue manual treatment, because this encourages the area to heal as quickly as possible.
Very severe strains can require surgery if the tendon/bone attachment suffers a rupture. Mild strains usually heal quickly.
It is important that the hamstring muscles are kept stretched. Check with your osteopath before you start any strengthening exercises as these could actually make the problem worse depending on the individual.
Warming up, particularly before a race or a hard training session, is essential.
Graeme Stroud ND, MRN, DO, ACOH is an osteopath, naturopath, certified zen body therapist and a qualified healer.
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