A hamstring strain is an excessive stretch or tearing of hamstring muscles which are located at the back of the thigh. It is a common injury particularly seen in athletes who participate in sports activities that requires running, jumping, and kicking. During growth spurt the bones grow faster than the muscles. As a result, the muscle becomes tight and a sudden jump or stretch can tear the muscle away from its connection to the bone resulting in strain.
In the severe case of hamstring strain a tendon can also be torn away from its bony attachment, which is called an avulsion injury.
Hamstring strain is usually caused when a muscle is stretched beyond its limit. Some of the factors that increase the risks of developing muscle strain include tight muscles, muscle fatigue, muscle imbalance, athletic activities, poor running technique and insufficient warm-up.
A person who experiences a muscle strain in the thigh will have a sudden sharp pain in the affected muscle. Sometimes a popping or snapping sensation is felt in the back of the thigh as the muscle tears. Other additional symptoms such as swelling, bruising and muscle weakness may be noticed.
Hamstring strain is diagnosed by physical examination and history. Some of the diagnostic tests such as X-ray and MRI scan may be required by the doctor to confirm the condition.
Immediately following an injury and before being evaluated by a doctor, you should initiate the R.I.C.E. method of treatment.
- Rest: Rest from the activity which caused the muscle strain. Crutches may be recommended to avoid putting weight on your legs
- Ice:: Ice packs applied to the injured area will help to control swelling and reduce pain. Ice should be applied over a towel to the affected area for 15-20 minutes four times a day for several days. Never place ice directly over the skin
- Compression:: An elastic wrap or compression stocking applied to the injured area help to minimize the swelling
- Elevation:: Elevating the knee above heart level will also help to reduce swelling
Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation. Once the pain has subsided your doctor may recommend physical therapy which involves range of motion exercises that include gentle stretching and strengthening exercises to regain strength which will help to speed up the recovery. These exercises should be carried out regularly as it helps to regain the flexibility and improve the restricted motion.
Surgery is very rarely performed in children with hamstring strain. Your doctor may recommend surgery only when the hamstring muscle is completely ruptured.