Hamstring strains are very common. Four different hamstring muscles work in unison and if they do not coordinate their functions properly, they can tear. A torn muscle can vary from mild to severe and often results from poor timing when legs switch from recovery to approach and in swing phase, Injury can happen due to a poor ability to absorb shock when contacting with the ground and rebounding too. Once these muscles have been pulled, it is likely to happen again in the future. It is important to understand how it happens and what you can do about it. Preventing a strain is about timing and coordination.
The four muscles are semimembranosus and semitendinosus and short and long biceps femoris. Eighty percent of hamstring injuries occur in the biceps femoris muscle. Intermuscular coordination, stiffness, and eccentric strength in the hamstring also involve the pelvic region and core. There are things you need to be aware of to avoid injury and the need for treatment in the first place.
Start with an analysis of your running mechanics. Are you over-striding? Do you have pelvic control? If not, you are leaving your hamstrings in a vulnerable position when contacting the ground. Consider the hip abductors and adductors are used for balance and adductor magnus is often called the fourth hamstring.
Warm Up. Passive stretching is not enough; it needs to be followed with energetic and vigorous exercise to prepare the body.
Proper Training Load. Fast twitch muscle groups have type II fibers that are quick to fatigue. Your hamstrings are designed for high speed work early in a workout to avoid weakening. You can prepare them for the traumas they will encounter in sprinting and multi-directional movement by keeping ‘hips over the foot’ at contact and tall posture to focus on balance and prevent strain injury.
Level of Fatigue. Don’t begin vigorous exercise if your mind and body are already fatigued.
Lower Back Issues. Problems with the lower spine and pelvic control lead to nerve dysfunction (numbness, tingling, or pain), weakening muscles and making you prone to strain injury.
Ground Surface. Slippery and uneven surfaces will strain muscles as they correct themselves for balance.
What Causes a Hamstring Strain?
Primary causes involve poor intermuscular coordination due to timing and localized strength in the hamstring muscles ‘during the switch between late leg recovery and initial leg approach in the swing phase of sprinting’.
Also, lack of localized muscle strength in the hamstrings, during the ground contact phase of running, affecting the ability to absorb shock and rebound.
Prior strain injury.
What are the Symptoms of a Hamstring Strain?
Mild strains may feel more like a stiffness or dull ache in the hamstring. A higher grade strain is excruciating and walking or standing may be impossible. An accurate diagnosis will require further analysis.
Other possible symptoms of hamstring strain injury are:
How is a Hamstring Strain Diagnosed? What is the Recovery Time?
Physiotherapists (sports doctors) look for signs of pain when contracting the muscle, reduced flexibility, soreness or a substantial lump or gap within the muscle tissue. The strain is graded 1, 2, or 3 and will vary and due the demands of activities. General recovery times listed will need further analysis by a physiotherapist.
May feel tension in the back of the thigh but able to walk normally. A sense of discomfort and inability to run at full speed, mild swelling, and spasm of the muscle. Bending your knee against resistance is not likely to cause much pain. Recovery expected is 1 to 3 weeks
Walking pattern will be affected and cause limping. Sudden spasms during exercises and activity, some muscle swelling, and tenderness to the touch. It will also be painful to bend your knee against resistance. Recovery expected is 4 to 8 weeks.
This is a severe strain injury involving a tear to half or more of the muscle. Crutches may be needed due to terrible pain and weakness in the muscle. Swelling will be evident right away and bruising will appear within 24 hours. Recovery expected is 3 to 6 months and may require surgery.
Note: The grade of injury and its exact location can be found by your physician using diagnostic MRI. Also, due to your sciatic nerve passing through the hamstring muscle group, a back injury , among others, pinching the sciatic nerve, can replicate the symptoms. It is important to get a professional diagnosis from a physiotherapist skilled in treatment of these particular strain injuries.
Hamstring Strain Treatment
Many patients start to feel better within a few days of the injury. Re-injury rate is high due to a poor rehabilitation process. A specific exercise program and treatment by a sports physician is recommended.
Hamstring strains are one injury where expert analysis is recommended for an accurate diagnosis to provide you with the best chance of avoiding reoccurring injury and issues in the lower back and hips created by building scar tissue.
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