As fitness is central to overall good health, physical activity is key to fitness. That bodily movement can take the form of athletic competition, personal training or even household chores. While such vigorous exercise is a net plus for general wellness, it is not without its risks. One commonly experienced hazard is the pulled hamstring, i.e. a sprain or rupture in the group of three muscles that run along the back of the thigh. Although most exercise causes very small tears that heal and, in fact, toughen the muscle, the hamstring strain may represent a larger tear that calls for immediate attention from a trained physical therapist.
Certain telltale signs accompany a hamstring injury. Most frequent are:
If indeed a hamstring strain is suspected, the afflicted individual is advised to take a few immediate initial steps:
Important to note, however, is that these steps do not constitute treatment for a hamstring injury. The extent and nature of a hamstring strain should be evaluated by a physical therapist or physician, who can then recommend the most effective course of treatment. At their disposal are specialized massage techniques, ultrasound technology and electrical stimulants that prove effective in diminishing pain, swelling, scar tissue and inflammation.
The physical therapist’s goal for a hamstring strain is threefold: first, to restore range of motion and suppleness to the hamstring region; next, to return the tissues to their pre-injury strength; and finally, to train the muscle group to function in a way that prevents further injury. Through manual manipulation and specifically directed exercises—the Romanian Deadlift is one such example—a physical therapist and the patient can achieve all three aims. The only obstacle to realizing restored hamstring capacity is when patients delay or refrain from seeking professional attention, in which case months may pass before healing begins.
While no prevention action is 100-percent effective, the best protection against hamstring injury is to remain physically fit. Stretching exercises benefit not only the muscles but also tendons and other connective tissue. Isometric exercises and weight training—done safely and moderately—fortify muscle strength and endurance. Advice from coaches and physical trainers is most helpful when keeping the hamstring healthy and intact.
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