The hamstring muscles are long muscles (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosus) that cross 2 joints in the body, the hip and knee, making them prone to injury. Pulled hamstrings, also called strained hamstring muscles, are one of the most common injuries in vigorous sports activities; 33% of lower body injuries occur in the hamstrings for people ages 16-25 years.
These occur when one or more hamstring muscles are stretched, or pulled, beyond their limit and the muscle tissues become strained or torn. The biceps femoris muscle is the most frequently injured, as it suffers the largest stretch during sprinting, followed by the semitendinosus muscle. If you have a multi-muscle injury, it normally occurs at the point where your hamstring muscles and tendons meet, called the musculotendinous junction or musculotendinous complex. However, injury can also occur at any place along your hamstring muscle bellies, or at the tendon attachments to the bone.
Acute hamstring pulls are caused by a direct hit, fall, or overloading, whereas chronic pulls are generally caused by overuse or prior unhealed injuries. Thedamage can range from overstretching to partial tearing to complete rupturing of the small fibers that make up your hamstring muscles.
These injuries occur most often early in the activity as a result of a poor warm up, or in the later stages of practices or games as a result of fatigue. Young, active teens or adults between 25-44 years are most susceptible to pulled hamstrings, and men are twice as likely to be injured as women.
Weak hamstring muscles also play a role in knee or low back injuries (cause your pelvis to tilt). If you allow hamstring injuries to persist they can lead to repeated injury, periostitis (inflammation of the periosteum), and prolonged disability. They are often confused with sciatic neuritis.
Pulled Hamstring Treatments
Hamstring injuries are frustrating to live with and healing can take a long time because it’s difficult to give your leg the rest it needs. This is especially true for runners and other athletes that return to their sport too early. Re-injury is common but it prolongs recovery and may also lead to permanent damage and other conditions.
Treating your hamstring pull correctly is essential to getting rid of your pain and restoring function to your upper thigh. Proper treatment will get you back to regular activities sooner, stop your pain, and reduce the risk of future re-injury.
To restore strength and range of motion in your hamstrings, treatment should focus on preventing scar tissue formation and muscle atrophy (shrinkage and weakening of the muscle). This requires rest and the appropriate therapies at the right time. Almost all types of hamstring pulls and tears (except a complete hamstring rupture) can be properly treated with trusted therapies that are available for use at home. Complete ruptures usually require surgery. However, using these home therapies after surgery can help speed recovery, improve function, and increase range of motion in your hamstrings.