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Health and Fitness News

Is It a Hamstring Injury?

Symptoms, causes, and treatment for a hamstring injury.

Along the back of your thigh are a group of three muscles called your hamstring muscles. They’re used to walk, run, jump, and bend your knees. Unfortunately, injury to your hamstrings is quite common. Pulling, straining, or tearing one of your hamstrings causes sharp pain that puts you out of the game fast.

You’re more likely to injure your hamstring playing sports that require quick stops and starts with fast running. Runners; dancers; and soccer, football, basketball, and tennis players are most at risk.

Here’s what you can expect with a hamstring injury.

Pain and Popping

Hamstring injuries may be mild, moderate, or severe. A mild strain may not cause much pain, but a severe pulled or torn hamstring is no joke. At the time of injury you’ll feel sudden, sharp pain along the back of your thigh. Many people also report feeling a popping or snapping sensation when the injury occurs.

Within a few hours you may develop swelling, tenderness, bruising, and discoloration at the site. Your leg will feel weak and it may be painful to move or put any weight on your leg.

Causes and Risk Factors

Like other muscles, you hamstring stretches and contracts to allow movement. When the hamstring is stretched beyond its ability, the result is injury and pain.

You’re more likely to injure your hamstring during intense physical activity. And unfortunately, once you hurt your hamstring once, you’re at a greater risk to injure it again in the future. For this reason, it’s important to prevent hamstring injuries when possible and if you injure your hamstring, give your body ample time to completely heal before resuming exercise.

A muscle imbalance can lead to a hamstring sprain or strain. If your quadriceps (the muscles along the front of your thigh) or your glutes are stronger than your hamstrings, you have a muscle imbalance that puts you at increased risk for injury.

Additionally, tight muscles are more likely to result in injury. This is one reason you need to spend time warming up your muscles before exercise and include stretches as a normal part of your weekly workout routine.

Should You See a Doctor?

A mild hamstring injury can usually be self-treated. If you’re in severe pain when you place weight on your leg or it hurts to walk just a few steps, then make an appointment to see your doctor to prevent further injury.

A diagnosis can be made based on a physical exam alone. However, x-rays, an ultrasound, or MRI may be needed to diagnose the extent of a severe injury.


As with other mild to moderate sports injuries, self-treatment to relieve pain and reduce swelling for a hamstring injury includes four easy steps, which are abbreviated RICE.

Rest from all activity until your leg is healed. Returning prematurely to exercise can re-injure your leg. You may need to use crutches to help you walk until the pain is gone.

Ice the back of your leg 20 to 30 minutes several times a day to reduce swelling and bring relief to your pain.

Wrapping your leg with a Compression bandage is another recommended way to lessen swelling.

When possible, rest with your leg Elevated.

As you protect your leg and recover with RICE, you may still experience pain. Over-the-counter pain medication is a safe option for most people.

Following a hamstring injury, your doctor may recommend specific exercises to strengthen your hamstring and increase flexibility. Follow these and you’ll regain full use of your hamstring. Severe muscle tears may require surgery, but with patience and a willingness to stick to doctor’s orders, you’ll be back on your feet in no time!