So, you’ve been laying low for a few months now, avoiding both the gym and that treadmill gathering dust in the garage. One day you realize that you’ve put on a few extra pounds, so now seems like a good time to get back into a vigorous exercise routine. Without thinking about the consequences, you dash off at full speed down the local park trail. Within minutes you find yourself crumpled to the ground, clasping the back of your leg where the mother of all cramps has you griped in pain. What happened? It’s likely you may have strained or torn the hamstring in the back of your leg.

How hamstring tears happen

A hamstring injury happens when the muscles are contracted forcefully while at their greatest stretch (called muscle overload). A pulled hamstring can occur for a variety of reasons including increasing age, following a previous injury, and in people who experience nerve pinches in the low-back area. When people overestimate their level of fitness and attempt to launch into an enthusiastic exercise routine, the risk of experiencing a hamstring injury increases exponentially. Some athletic high-risk activities where hamstring strains and tears are likely to happen include soccer, football, baseball, and basketball. It can also happen while dancing, running, water skiing, weightlifting, ice skating, and during martial arts practice.

Prognosis for a strained or pulled hamstring

Typically, partial tears heal in about two months, while complete tears take about three months. If nonsurgical treatments fail to heal a partial tear, and certainly in the case of a complete tear, surgery may be necessary. By and large, most hamstring surgeries are done to treat extreme tears. During a typical repair procedure, the muscle is moved into its correct position where it is then stapled or stitched to the bone.

What’s it feel like?

If a hamstring injury occurs while sprinting in full stride – similar to our opening example, there will be a sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh. The pain alone will cause the runner to come to a sudden screeching halt, balancing on the good leg or falling to the ground. Within a few hours swelling appears, followed by bruising or discoloration at the back of the leg over the next few days. Weakness in the area of the injury can persist for weeks.

The good news is that most hamstring injuries are minor and heal well when treated at home using the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). Sometimes immobilization may also be recommended by a doctor using a knee splint to keep the leg in a neutral position. Physical therapy is very helpful in the recovery of a hamstring injury and can commence after the pain and swelling subsides. Physical Therapy entails strength building and the restoration of range of motion as well as improving flexibility.

When surgery cannot be avoided

Surgery is most often performed for tendon avulsion injuries, meaning the tendon has pulled completely away from the bone and needs to be restored. Following surgery, the patient will need to use crutches to keep the weight off the leg while it heals. The length of time for this depends on the severity of the injury. Once the leg has healed, rehabilitation is prescribed for at least 6 months, although in some cases 3 months will suffice – depending on the type of injury.

PRP for hamstring injuries

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is currently being investigated for its effectiveness in speeding the healing of hamstring muscle injuries. PRP is a preparation developed from a patient’s own blood. It contains a high concentration of proteins called growth factors that are very important in the healing of injuries.

Many treatment centers across the country are incorporating PRP injections into the nonsurgical treatment regimen for some hamstring muscle injuries.

Article Source: OrthoInfo

Santa Rosa Orthopaedics Sports Medicine Center

Our sports medicine providers are united by a commitment to compassionate care and individualized treatment for athletes of all level – with an emphasis on individualized care to meet each patient’s unique requirements. Our goal is to get our patients back to their active lives and prevent injuries from occurring in the future. We offer a wide range of treatment options, from non-operative care and in-office procedures for minor conditions and fractures to the latest surgical procedures for more complex sports-related injuries and disorders.