Hamstring Injury Treatment with Hot and Cold Therapy

When pulling your hamstring, heat or cold therapy can dictate how fast you recover. The two treatments can work well together and complement each other. If you've pulled your hamstring, keep reading to learn more about which form of therapy might be best suited to alleviate your pain!

When dealing with a pulled hamstring, heat or cold therapy can make the difference between recovery and not. Heat therapy stimulates circulation of the blood flow to your injured muscle, helping regenerate healthy tissue and faster healing. Cold can help reduce inflammation and swelling, which are both important factors that promote quicker healing in the area of injury.

When to use Heat or Cold Therapy

One of the most under-utilized, yet effective methods to deal with muscle strains is heat and cold therapy, but there are right and wrong ways to do so. For example, you can't just apply heat or cold directly onto the affected area, because it could do more harm than good. You need to know where to properly apply both heating or cooling products before undertaking either course of treatment.

When to Use Cold:

  • Immediately after the injury
  • To reduce swelling
  • To minimize bruising
  • If you are in pain
  • To decrease muscle spasms
  • After physical activity


If you have any skin conditions that prevent you from feeling the effects of cold therapy, or have any other injury, you should ask for a doctor’s advice before using ice. Take care not to place the ice directly onto your skin to prevent damage, and use thick non-toxic gloves if possible.

When to Use Heat:

  • After the initial injury phase has passed
  • To loosen tight muscles
  • To relieve soreness several days after a strenuous activity
  • Before physical activity

If you have a skin infection, then heat can worsen things. If you have swelling, avoid using hot water, as it could cause more swelling. If you have a condition which makes it difficult to feel temperature, don't use heat.

Cold Therapy for a Hamstring Injury

When you've suffered a hamstring strain and have a lot of pain, swelling and physical activity in your day, it can be difficult to continue your regular schedule. Instead of taking the wait and see approach, get a cold pack specifically made for the hamstring area.

Ice works by causing the capillaries beneath the skin to vasoconstriction, which is a fancy way to say it constricts them. This contributes to reducing swelling and hence pain. Ice also interrupts the body's pain sensations by blocking them. When this happens, less pain signals are sent to the brain. The last way ice affects your body is by decreasing your metabolic demand. Meaning while your body is busy producing extra heat (when it gets cold), it's actually in a much more ideal state for healing and recovering from injuries - so you can go back to full force training faster!

Benefits of Cold Therapy

Ice therapy is commonly used after an injury or muscle strain. Its benefits include faster healing, reduced swelling, and new tissue growth. All three benefits support an athlete's ability to recover from the damaging effects of an injury more easily and quickly. Begin icing as soon as possible when you injure a muscle. Even 15 minutes every few hours will provide invaluable aid in speeding recovery time, as well as:
  • Less pain
  • Less swelling
  • Less inflammation

These three benefits will have a cascade effect on your hamstring. Less pain will allow you to move more and keep your range of motion. Lower swelling will decrease pain and keep stiffness at bay, and less inflammation will reduce pain and swelling.

Tips for Applying Cold

Putting ice on your hamstring can be a little tricky, but it doesn't have to be. If you're using a cold pack, make sure it is wrapped in an elastic bandage and place your towel so that the cream spreads evenly throughout the affected region. Then strap over and lie still! These are our best tips for applying ice:

Ice it Fast

Get the ice on your injury quickly, it’s most effective when it’s done within 48 hours after the injury.

Massage It

Don’t just set the cold pack on the back of your thigh, move it around and massage the cold into the skin.

Set Your Timer

Ice the injured hamstring for 20 minutes, but no longer. Icing it for too long can cause skin and tissue damage, like frostbite.

Heat for Hamstrings

If you want to get freed from your aching leg, using heat after the initial injury phase can help speed up your recovery. Increased blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the muscles and tissue around the injured area. This helps heal and soothe any kind of pain in your leg. So if you have had a pulled hamstring, try some heat!

Benefits of Heat Therapy

Heat therapy can benefit almost any kind of hamstring injury, but it is especially helpful when dealing with overuse injuries that have lasted for some time. If you are experiencing pain during the day, heat therapy would be ideal to help keep things like blood flowing and muscles loose and lengthened, so that there is less tension at the site of your injury. Here are the three benefits of using heat regularly:

  • Loosens muscle tissue
  • Relieves pain
  • Speeds up healing
  • Tips for Applying Heat

One of the most effective ways to experience relief with muscular injuries is by purchasing stimulating heat pads, commonly sold over-the-counter. When it comes to treating muscle pain, you can use either a herbal heating pad or a hot pack that you can preheat in the microwave. The key is to test out what's most comfortable for you on any given day.  To apply heat therapy comfortably, stick the heat pad under your towel, wrap it around your thigh, and secure it with an elastic bandage if necessary!

Wait 72 hours

Waiting at least 72 hours after you’ve had a hamstring injury, it’s essential not to put heat on the area immediately. Heat can increase swelling and bruising, which is exactly what you don’t want to do. If you must use heat, wait until the second day after your injury to keep your recovery moving in the right direction.

Heat Before Exercise

Warm up your muscles with heat before you get into any strenuous activity to help avoid injury. One of the benefits of using heat as a form of rehabilitating muscle injuries is that it gets blood circulating faster, which means more oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the area for quick recovery.

Set Your Timer

Heat therapy usually takes anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes. Remember, you should never sleep with a hot pack on your leg, it can lead to severe skin burns or worse.

Luckily, we carry the best and most effective herbal products for this sort of problem here at Sacksythyme.

Alternating Hot and Cold Therapy

In the world of physical therapy, there are two primary forms of therapy that can help decrease swelling and inflammation associated with muscle injuries - cold therapy and hot therapy. There are some obvious pros and cons, but when it comes to a hamstring strain or any other similar muscle injury, therapists have found that what's best is alternating between one form of thermotherapy and the other. One method is to alternate between an cold pack and heating pad for about 30 minutes. Make sure you pay attention to the time, so you don't exceed 30 minutes! As mentioned before, because there are pros and cons, our advice would be to always start with heat as part of your alternating treatment regimen.

The Safe Way to Use Ice and Heat for a Hamstring Injury

When it comes to dealing with a hamstring injury, there are two basic things you can do for treatment: heat and cold. The two work in different ways, so choosing which one seems best for your injury should be based on the severity of your muscle pain. If you're dealing with something relatively minor after all that running, ice is the tried-and-true remedy for reducing inflammation through numbing.

However, if you've already taken anti-inflammatory medication, and it seems to have helped much, and moving around is what's causing more discomfort than resting, then warming up with heat may be a better option, as it will help relax stiff muscles instead of further constricting them. Either way, just make sure that before either begin, you check in with your doctor to make sure these DIY treatments fit into his or her recovery plan!


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