A hamstring injury or strain can be a painful and even debilitating injury, but there are a number of ways to treat this condition.
A hamstring injury is defined as any injury, strain or damage to the muscle fibres of the hamstring, which is a muscle group composed of the three large muscles located behind the knee. These three muscle fibres, the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris) act on and link the knee to the hip joint, and are crucial for the activities of extending the trunk, flexing the knee, and rotating the lower leg. The main activities affected by the hamstring include walking, running, jumping and moving the trunk in certain situations when the legs are fixed. Clearly, this is an important muscle group for performing any of our normal tasks, from walking up the stairs and riding a bike to turning around and maintaining balance.
Therefore, when a hamstring injury occurs, it is important to remedy the situation fast, particularly if you are an active person, an athlete, or someone who requires full use of their knees and hips on a daily basis. Hamstring injuries come in many shapes and forms, but are typically related to a strain or a tear of the muscle fibres in one or more of those major muscle groups.
If you wish to recover quickly, you need to allow the cells to regrow and repair themselves in the damaged muscle, or else the injury will not heal. You can suffer a hamstring strain as an athlete quite easily, but it affects normal people as well, by doing abnormal activities, bending in an uncomfortable way, or experiencing an awkward fall or accident.
The symptoms of a hamstring strain can include a snapping or popping sensation when the injury first occurs, accompanied by a tight, sharp feeling of pain. You may also have tenderness or bruising at the sight of the strain or sprain. When you attempt to walk, bend over, or move the hamstring muscles, you may experience discomfort, pain, or the complete inability to complete the task.
In more serious cases, where pain is severe or swelling does not decrease after regular icing, it is important that you visit an Osteopath or other medical professional, to ensure that there isn’t more serious tissue damage or a secondary injury. For most hamstring strains, however, home remedies and behavioural changes will do the trick.
Rest: While this might be hard for overly active and athletic individuals to accept, the best way to allow the muscle to heal quickly is to let it rest. The cells need time to work their magic and rejuvenate the cells that have been damaged or torn. If you are constantly moving around the damaged muscle, this process will take much longer. Accept the fact that you may need to take a few days off work, or a few days away from the gym, and take care of your body to make sure that it heals properly. This is the most passive, but also most effective way to prevent a hamstring injury from getting any worse.
Proper Diet: Ensure that your diet is rich in the right nutrients that can speed the healing process of muscles and fibres. Protein-rich foods are the first major recommendation, as amino acids are the essential building blocks for all the muscle fibre in our body. We need protein in our diet for our body to continue its perpetual regrowth and repair of our cells. Vitamins A and C are also very important. Vitamin C plays a key role in the production of collagen, which speeds the healing of muscle fibres. Vitamin A is a good addition as well, due to its anti-inflammatory effects on the injured muscle, which can help the healing process as well.
Stretching: Many hamstring injuries can be caused because the muscle is simply too “cold”, so when excessive force was put on it, the fibre was more likely to tear. To increase flexibility of your hamstrings throughout the recovery process, begin to routinely stretch at least twice a day. One of the best hamstring stretches involves lying on the ground beside a wall, pole or doorway, and then slowly moving the injured leg up the wall, making your body form an “L”. This is a great stretch that can be done at varying intensities, based on how the healing process has been progressing.
Ice and Heat: As with any muscle injury, alternating ice and heat can be an effective way to quickly reduce swelling and inflammation, while also stimulating blood flow to speed the healing process. This alternating process is also good for pain relief. Immediately following the injury, it is best to stick primarily with ice, using a cold pack 3-5 times per day. On the second and third day of recovery, heat in the form of a compress, jacuzzi or hot bath can be added to the recovery regimen.
Supporting the Muscle: When the muscles are not in use, make sure that they are supported, and not undergoing any passive or unnecessary strain. Support the leg with pillows while laying down, and use crutches if possible or convenient for you to do so. Any additional strain or use will only weaken the muscle, particularly in the first 24 hours of recovery.
Strengthening: There are many different workouts that are recommended for hamstring injury recovery, particularly once the healing process is well under way. You should avoid exercise in the initial few days to a week, depending on the severity of the injury, but it is important to keep the muscle in good shape as it heals, to ensure that you will get full use of the muscle as soon as possible.
Yoga: For thousands of years, yoga has provided a calming and low-impact form of exercise that is good for the body and mind. Following an injury, there can be both physical and psychological side effects, and while hamstring strains aren’t usually very serious, Yoga is known to lower anxiety and stress levels, improve the immune system, and boost the metabolism, all of which can help the healing process of your injury!