Hamstrings are often injured during sports or everyday activities such as running, cycling, or lifting weights. Left untreated, they can cause long-term damage to muscles and ligaments, leading to chronic pain and reduced mobility.
Physiotherapists are trained professionals who specialise in treating musculoskeletal injuries. We diagnose and treat conditions ranging from sprains and strains to fractures and dislocations. Hamstring tears are therefore commonly treated at our practice.
What are hamstring muscles?
The hamstrings are a large group of muscles located at the back of the thigh. Their job is to bend the knee, move the hip backwards and stabilise the leg. The muscles can be injured at any point but are most vulnerable where the tendon and muscle fibres join together. This is a common injury for players of all sports involving running, particularly those involving quick movements and kicking.
Common causes of hamstring tears
A sudden, vigorous contraction or stretch of the hamstring muscle group that results in substantial mechanical stress causes hamstring strains.
As the hamstrings cross two large joints, they must perform complicated movements, often activating suddenly and with great force. They are often stretched during a fall, big kick or sudden take-off.
Common risk factors for hamstring tears
Factors that increase the chance of a tear include poor flexibility, strength deficits and neural mobility.
Hamstrings are often injured due to overuse. This is usually caused by repetitive movements, especially those involving running and jumping.
Other factors contributing to hamstring injuries are muscle imbalances, abnormal lower limb biomechanics, fatigue, and inadequate warm-up. In addition, poor posture can also cause injuries.
It seems, however, that the most significant predictor of a future hamstring tear is a previous hamstring injury.
Common symptoms of hamstring injuries
The most common symptom of a torn hamstring is a sharp pain at the back of the thigh, often immediately after intense activity. There may also be swelling, bruising, difficulty walking and pain with knee movements. The symptoms of a hamstring tear are similar to many other conditions, as the lower back often refers to pain at the back of the thigh, mimicking a hamstring tear.
Your physiotherapist can confirm that the pain is due to a torn hamstring and tell you how bad the tear is. Although not usually required, diagnosis can be confirmed by having an MRI or real-time ultrasound scan.
Can physio help a torn hamstring?
Once a diagnosis is made, the first step is to follow the R.I.C.E protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). During the first 48 hours, you should apply ice for 20 minutes every hour to reduce swelling and bruising.
A consultation with one of our physiotherapists will include advice about your recovery and when it is appropriate to return to sport. Your physiotherapist has many techniques that can promote healing and reduce scar tissue formation, including ultrasound, deep tissue therapy, laser, TENS and dry needling.
They will also prescribe an exercise program to return strength, flexibility and control to the muscle, getting you back to your sport quickly and safely. Due to the high chance of recurrence, rehabilitation is crucial and usually takes 6-12 weeks. Surgery may be required before rehabilitation can start if the hamstring muscle is completely torn.
The fundamental goal of physiotherapy and the rehabilitation program is to restore the patient’s functions to the greatest extent possible and to return the athlete to sport at the previous level of performance while minimising the risk of re-injury.
How to avoid hamstring injuries
Hamstring strains can be avoided by ensuring the hamstrings are strong and flexible enough to resist the rigours of work, sports, and daily activities.
The following strategies will help you lower your risk of suffering a hamstring strain injury:
- Before engaging in any sports activity, always warm up.
- Avoid starting a new activity too quickly to allow your body to adjust to the new movement patterns. Instead, gradually increase the frequency and intensity of the activity.
- Make sure your hamstring muscles are strong through strength training.
- Stretch effectively after exercise to improve range of movement and mobility.
- Before repeating the same exercise program, pay attention to your body after working out. Stretch, apply ice, or take rest days as necessary.
Final thoughts on Physiotherapy for Hamstring Tears
A hamstring tear occurs when the muscle fibres at the back of the thigh become damaged. The injury usually happens after repeated strain or overuse.
Physiotherapists can perform various treatments depending on the severity of the injury.
There are several treatment options for hamstring tears. Physiotherapists can provide exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles. They can also recommend other treatments such as injections, massage therapy, ultrasound treatment, electrical stimulation, or even surgery for severe injuries.
Book an appointment with one of our highly qualified physiotherapists at Enhance Physio before starting a rehabilitation program. We can advise you on the best course of action for your condition.