Hamstrings are a group of three muscles that run down the back of the thigh, connecting on the ischial tuberosity (the small bony projection on the bottom of the pelvis). The hamstring muscles function to pull the leg backward, propelling the body forward while walking or running. They also bend the knees, a movement called knee flexion.
They are surrounded by other muscles, including the hip flexors and quadriceps, but they are particularly vulnerable to injury because they are often tight or underused. This means that they can be prone to strains, which can turn into long-lasting problems.
The most common way of getting a hamstring tear is by running or jumping too quickly. This forces the hamstrings to change from an eccentric (or slow) function of decelerating knee extension, to a concentric (or fast) function of lengthening knee extension, which can create tension in the muscle and tendons.
When this happens, a muscle or tendon is pulled and may be partially torn, causing pain in the thigh that can radiate into the hips and lower back. In rare cases, the hamstring tissue is completely torn, causing extreme pain that can be excruciating. The skin may also bruise and turn purple, from bleeding under the skin.
Treatment for a hamstring tear is usually the same as for any other thigh or hip injury: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Medications to reduce inflammation can be helpful. However, if the injury is a severe one, physical therapy is probably recommended.
Rehabilitation for a hamstring tear is very important, as incomplete or improper healing makes the injured tissues more likely to tear again. Your therapist will help you regain strength and mobility while preventing reinjury.
Stretching your hamstrings is one of the best ways to avoid a hamstring injury, and it can also help speed up recovery after an injury. There are many different types of stretches that can be done to improve flexibility and range of motion in the hamstrings, but the most popular are standing and sitting bend-over stretches.
Sitting stretches for the hamstrings include a variety of exercises and positions on an exercise bench, but the most effective are those that focus on extending the legs. They are also effective for improving posture and strengthening the hamstrings.
Seated hamstring stretch machines are available that use a lever attached to weighted plates to challenge the hamstrings. These machines are ideal for people with injuries or limited mobility.
Performing the seated hamstring stretch can be difficult, so you may need the assistance of an osteopath or physiotherapist to do it correctly. They will assist in determining the exact tissue/s damaged and, once they have done so, they can recommend the most appropriate exercises for your rehabilitation to improve flexibility and strength.
Hamstring stretches should be performed slowly and with proper form to protect the spine, hips and ankles. You should only stretch as far as you can go while keeping the back straight, and not rounding the spine. This helps prevent injury to the lower back, which can happen if you hunch over and reach for your toes.