Pulled Hamstring Overview

What is a Pulled Hamstring?

Pulled hamstrings lead to some of the most common injuries among active individuals. Many people are unaware that pelvic muscles are composed of three separate muscles (the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris). These muscles are responsible for bending both the knee and the hip if done properly. They assist with balancing out other muscle groups like the quadriceps which are located on the front of a person's leg and help when ignoring running or walking to extend one's hips or knees.

A pulled hamstring is an overextension or overexertion of this muscle group, due to physical stress. Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, symptoms can vary from passing discomfort to extreme pain and loss of function. If a pulled hamstring occurs in one or the other leg, there are immediate steps that can be taken toward recovery.

Hamstring muscles are biarticular, which means that the muscle connects to and affects two joints at the same time. The hamstring is one of many important muscles that need to function optimally for our body to operate properly. Because of this, there is a greater risk of sustaining an injury because of the increased number of activities that may incur strain on this muscle group and also because the damage it causes can hinder active movement within the leg/hip area.

Hamstring Strain Grades

The technical term for a pulled hamstring is a 'grade I hamstring strain.' A pulled hamstring can be a strain but sometimes it will involve more tears in the muscle if it is more serious and you may need to see someone like your doctor to identify just how damaged the fibers are or aren't. Strains can be broken up into three groups:

  • Grade one strains account for about half of all hamstring pulls. They involve minimal damage to muscle fibers and are relatively easy for the body to heal itself.
  • Grade two straining occurs when a portion of the hamstring muscles is torn, causing increased pain and loss of movement around the joint.
  • When the hamstring is completely torn, you are experiencing a grade three strain which makes for intense pain and swelling. It may be accompanied by nausea or difficulty walking. In severe cases, it can lead to a muscle tear that requires surgery.

Pulled Hamstring Causes

A pulled hamstring can result from a variety of factors and is common in players who usually engage in a rigorous activity like football or soccer. While injuries are more commonly linked to the tear of the hamstring itself, long-term wear and tear can be a contributing factor as well. While most people who suffer a pulled hamstring will experience audible popping when it happens, this is not necessarily the case for all injuries. Here are some contributing factors that can lead to a pulled hamstring:

  • Poor footwear can cause problems throughout the entire leg, often impacting the hamstring.
  • Trying to increase your activity levels too quickly or suddenly (aka a weekend warrior)
  • Having the knee slide forward when you don't want it to can be very uncomfortable, which is why you'll want a proven stretch routine to combat this over time.
  • Poor general flexibility- is most common in middle-aged men.
  • Weak glutes can quickly lead to a pulled upper hamstring, as these two muscle groups work together.

Pulled Hamstring Symptoms

A pulled hamstring is hard to diagnose, unfortunately. Different levels of severity will exhibit different symptoms, and many of them are quite subtle. Typical symptoms include light discomfort that passes in a few days or severe pain that doesn't. You should also keep an eye out for audible popping noises or sudden pain when running to help pinpoint the nature of your injury.

For more clues on the nature of your injury, look for the following tactile and visual symptoms:

What Does a Pulled Hamstring Look Like?

A quick visual inspection can confirm whether or not you're injured. If the damage is more severe, bruising and swelling may occur on the back of your leg.

What Does A Pulled Hamstring Feel Like?

Pulled hamstring pain is localized to the back of the leg, causing runners to limp or making others favor other limbs during daily activities. It can be more severe while walking, bearing weight, bending over, or straightening the knee, and it may come on suddenly while exercising. During periods of prolonged standing or sitting, there may be a dull ache throughout the day.

Pulled Hamstring Recovery

How long does it take for a pinched nerve to heal? This can often be hard to tell, as factors like the severity of an injury and the patient's age and medical history will determine how long their pinched nerve recovery may last. In general though, one has a better chance of recovering in 4-6 weeks.

Plenty of rest in the early stage of recovery plus an herbal heating pad, cold therapy pack, compression, and exercise will cut down on healing time, as well as offer immediate pain relief.

Long-Term Care for a Pulled Hamstring

Pulled hamstring care does not end once symptoms disappear, although they should subside. Take long-term strategies to help prevent strains in the future and discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor. During recovery, implement exercises as they appear or as you require in your treatment regime, keeping on top of things with the variety of available equipment.


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