Hamstring tendonitis is a condition that causes pain just below the buttocks or at the side of the knees (at the top or bottom of the hamstring muscles). Hamstring tendonitis is inflammation (pain, swelling, warmth, and redness) caused by tiny tears in one or more of the hamstring tendons located at the top of the leg around the ischial tuberosity and/or just below the knee, at the tibia or fibula. Hamstring tendinitis often leads to hamstring tendinosis, a more chronic form of tendon damage, over the long term.
The initial tendon damage can range from overstretching to partial tearing to complete rupturing of the small fibers that make up your hamstring muscles and tendons. If you do not allow your tissues to heal properly, your previous hamstring injuries will build upon each other. The inability of your tendon to repair itself encourages the microtears to accumulate faster than they can heal, increasing the degeneration in your tissue and reinforcing your pain and disability.
Hamstring tendinosis is a chronic tendon injury that involves degeneration of the hamstring tendons. This type of tendinosis is a result of excessive tension, effort and/or repetitive use of your hamstring muscles and tendons.
If you have hamstring tendinosis damage happens at a cellular level – your tendon (which is made up of collagen fibers) becomes weaker and thinner over time and the hamstring tendon fibers begin to fray and separate. The tendon loses its glistening appearance and elasticity, and often changes to a soft texture that is yellow or brown in color (mucus-like appearance). Scar tissue or calcific deposits (calcium phosphate) develop around the injured area which can decrease the blood supply to the tissue.
This condition can be in one or both of your legs and normally affects active people between 30 – 50 years old, especially distance runners, sprinters, tennis players, skaters, and soccer players (or those who participate in team sports with lots of running). Other conditions that are often seen with hamstring tendonitis are bursitis, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, avulsion fractures, stress fractures, and/or referred back pain.
Treating a Hamstring Tendonitis
Early diagnosis and proper treatment are important, however hamstring tendinitis can be difficult to prevent as symptoms often start long after you’ve had the condition. Tendon injuries are generally slow to heal, as they have limited blood supply and are complicated by the formation of scar tissue. The goal is to protect your injured tissues, allow your tendon to heal naturally and return to your normal routines as soon as possible. Failure to see improvements after conservative treatments may make injections or surgery your only options.
It is important to treat hamstring tendon injuries as soon as possible, as any activity or strain you put on your tendon can re-injure it further. Though the pain, discomfort, and inconvenience of a hamstring injury can be overwhelming, it is possible to overcome it.
Although it is recommended that you rest your hamstring tendons following injury it can be difficult to do as it is an essential tendon for walking and daily activities. Fortunately, there are healing tools that can help treat your tendon and speed up the healing process so you can get back to a life without pain and risk of further injury.