A hamstring is one of three posterior thigh muscles in between the hip and the knee that plays an important role in jumping, running, walking, cycling, and swimming. In simple words, the hamstrings are the powerhouse of your legs. They are also highly susceptible to injury. Whether you are bending your knees, straightening your legs, or moving your hip, hamstrings help you do it all in a controlled way.
A hamstring injury or strain can be extremely painful, and it is quite common in athletes as it can occur while serious training or exercising. When this part of the body is injured, a person will have a hard time walking and running. When severe, such an injury can make it tough for individuals to go about their daily routine. It can cause big trouble in your fitness regimen, leaving you on the bed for weeks if not treated right. If there is a high recurrence rate of hamstring strains, lack of careful rehabilitation might be the real reason. In these instances, hamstring rehab may be necessary.
If you are experiencing chronic hamstring strains, there are lots of exercises that you can do in order to progress back to full athletic participation. Fortunately, most rehab can be done at home. In this article, we have discussed hamstring rehab consisting of simple exercises that can easily be done without needing any equipment.
How Does the Hamstring Injury/Strain Occur?
According to most experts, hamstring injuries happen while sprinting. Scientifically, the actual tear of hamstring muscle occurs when the leg is moving or swinging from behind the body to the front. During this period, your hamstrings are working quite rapidly in transitioning from slowing down to moving forward so your body can propel itself forward as soon as your foot hits the ground. This rapid change from an eccentric to concentric action is considered to be when your muscle is most prone to a strain or injury, and this is when the hamstrings are lengthened a bit while experiencing a large amount of force.
According to this Article by Livestrong, if your hamstrings are tight and strong, you can jump higher and sprint with extremely high power.
Symptoms According to Severity of a Hamstring Pull
- Minor swelling
- Slight pain while stretching and contracting the leg
- Sharp pain in the back of the leg while exercising or training
- Discomfort when walking
- Tightness in the posterior thigh
- Difficulty while walking
- Unable to straighten the knee
- Visible swelling and bruising
- Pain during performing any activity
- Pain when bending the knee
- Severe pain in the leg while moving it
- Major swelling and bruising
- Difficulty walking – might even need crutches for assistance
- Unable to bend or straighten the knee
Initial Steps for Hamstring Strain Rehabilitation
If hamstring injury occurs to you, you will likely be instructed to rest and ice as much as possible. Though icing is never fun, it can be very helpful. It helps to curb swelling. The amount of time you will need to ice your hamstring will vary based on the extent of the injury. Ice packs work well for this part of the recovery process. If you don’t have on at hand, filling a plastic bag with ice cubes and placing it directly on the hamstring works just as well.
After icing the leg for a sufficient amount of time, you should move forward to the next step that is using heat. A heating pad works well for this purpose. Alternating between hot and cold temperature can be very helpful, though it is sometimes uncomfortable and takes a lot of work.
Staying off of the injured leg will be important, at least until it heals. It may be perfectly fine to walk around, however doing any serious running or training, until the hamstring is completely healed, is not recommended. Getting back to vigorous action too soon can backfire and can cause re-injury. This will be the last thing that a person would want because it would set back their rehab and recovery efforts.
Hamstring injuries can be tricky. They may appear to be healing for a short time, before a setback occurs and a person re-injures it. This is especially the case if the person is old – As we age, it becomes harder and harder to come back from injuries, especially severe ones. Coming back too soon and re-injuring a hamstring would not only be painful, but it would also likely be frustrating.
Now, after getting over the initial process, you can start performing some easy exercises to progress back to normal condition. Here are some exercises that we recommend:
Note: Make sure you are not feeling any sharp pain, you should only experience mild discomfort in the back of your thigh, which is normal. However, if it is extremely hard for you to perform these exercises, you should talk to your doctor.
Rehab Phase 1
During the first two days following a hamstring injury, the last thing you would do is stretch your injured muscles. If you start doing serious exercises and training right after the strain has occurred, it will just make things worse! However, in order to return to your normal condition, you need to get up and moving so the injury can heal. So, in short, our goal in the first two days of injury is to get that muscle start working again, but in a safe and pain-free way.
Make sure you warm up before performing any kind of rehabilitation exercises. For starters, you can begin with low-intensity sidestepping or some forward and backward steps at home. If you have a low-grade hamstring strain, you can do bridge exercise – lay on your back with your knees bent, drive your heels into the ground and straighten your core, next thing you should do is lift your hips from the ground and squeeze your hip muscles. Hold this position for about 5 minutes with your back flat on the ground. This exercise will help strengthen the injured muscle and get it to work.
Rehab Phase 2
After the first two days following a hamstring strain, you should begin with some light to mediocre exercises. Here are some:
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Place the heel of your injured side of the leg on a stool (about 10-15 inches high). Keep the leg straight, don’t bend. Lean forward by bending at your hips until you feel a mellow stretch in the back of your thigh. One thing to make sure here is that you don’t bend at your waist or roll over your shoulders, otherwise you’ll end up stretching your lower back instead of your leg. Once you put your leg in the right direction and position, hold it for about 15-20 seconds. Repeat it twice or thrice.
Prone Knee Bend
It is the easiest exercise for hamstring strain rehabilitation. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight, now slowly lift the injured side of the leg by bending the knee (your heel should come towards your buttocks). Hold this position for about 5 to 10 seconds. Now, relax and return your leg to the ground. Do 3 sets of 10 reps each. As you feel more convenient doing it, you can go ahead and add weights to your ankle too.
Hamstring Stretch on Wall
Lie on your back with your buttocks close to a wall (preferably a doorway). Straighten out your unstrained leg on the floor while raising your injured leg and resting it against the wall. Keep your leg as straight as possible. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Relax and repeat it 3 to 4 times.
Sit normally on a stool or a chair, straighten out your injured leg and bend the torso at your waist. Now, slowly start moving your foot towards yourself. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat it 3 to 4 times.
Stand straight on a flat surface with your arms stretched straight outside like you are making a “T”. Lift your unstrained leg above the floor and bend it at the knee. If you feel unbalanced standing straight on one leg, you can hold on to a chair, wall, or a counter. While standing on your affected leg, keep it straight for about 30 seconds then rest for up to 10 seconds. Repeat it 6 to 8 times.
If you can stand straight on your hurt leg easily for 30 seconds, try balancing it with your eyes closed. Perform all these steps mentioned above and repeat it 5 times.
If you start feeling normal while standing on your injured leg and it doesn’t hurt much, you can move towards doing lunges. Lunges are excellent for building strength in your core, glutes, and quads. They also help with your posture. Start by stepping forward with your right leg, which should ideally be about two feet away from your left leg that remains stationary. Do this exercise inversely (moving the left leg forward while keeping the right leg stationary). Repeat 10 times. During this exercise, it is extremely important that your torso remains upright, shoulders down, and back straight.
Hamstring strains can be a lot painful if not treated right or on the right time. It is important that you know how to undergo hamstring strain rehabilitation. There is a common misconception that muscles feeling tight need to be stretched, however, this is not the case at all because muscles can feel tight for a number of reasons, which doesn’t mean they need to be stretched. When your hamstring is strained, the fibers or microscopic cells are slightly torn. In excessive cases, there can be internal bleeding as well that can be seen in the form of bruising or swelling.
Relax your muscles and do gentle exercises instead of doing vigorous stretching which will do more harm than good. If this was your method to relieve pain, you need to follow the guide above and know the simple exercises that you can do at home.