A multi-tasking set of three muscles on the backs of your thighs are known as your hamstrings. They run down from your hips to underneath your knees. The hamstrings allow your legs to bend so you can sit, run, squat, and jump, as well as extend your leg straight out, behind your body.
Despite how much movement your hamstrings enable, they’re prone to injuries like pulls, strains, and tears. In fact, hamstring injuries are the No.1 sports injury. Other downers for fitness fanatics and weekend warriors alike, are that hamstring injuries tend to recur and can involve a lengthy healing process.
Dr. Struan Coleman treats all types of hamstring problems, since he works with pro athletes regularly. He serves as the New York Mets’ team physician, and is the consulting physician for both the Association for Tennis Professionals and the Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) tour. His support team is extraordinary as well.
Dr. Coleman’s years of experience are combined with an empathy for patients that’s rare. In addition to answering your questions and never causing you to feel hurried, he really listens to your concerns, and understands that you want treatment that’s customized to your injury, not a cookie-cutter approach.
Why it’s easy to injure your hamstring, and how to know if you have an injury
You can sustain a hamstring injury fairly easily if you:
- Have any history of past hamstring injury — resultant scar tissue can permanently compromise the muscle
- Lack strength and flexibility in your hamstrings
- Overdo it while playing a sport or engage in certain movements (which overstretches your hamstrings)
- Don’t devote enough time to conditioning
- Are active in certain sports that come with a high risk of hamstring injury, like long-distance running or dance
- Are an adolescent — teens sudden periods of growth can stress hamstrings because their muscles and bones are growing at different speeds
- Are older — aging is accompanied by hamstring weakening
When your muscles get “overloaded,” you’re at prime risk for hamstring injury. You know you have a hamstring injury if you suddenly feel sharp pain in your hamstring area, along with swelling and notable weakness. You might also notice the visible sign of bruising.
Types of hamstring injury
It can get confusing to keep the types of hamstring injuries straight. You can strain or actually tear your hamstring, but there are two types of tears: partial and complete. Dr. Coleman grades your injury from a 1, which involves mild discomfort and a relatively short recovery time that you can manage at home, to a 3, which is severe.
A more serious hamstring injury includes a total tear, the need for surgery to repair it, and a months-long recovery period. The worst injury you can experience is called an avulsion, where the tendon that connects your muscle to your bone pulls away, taking part of your bone along. Your mobility is greatly limited.
How can I prevent hurting my hamstrings?
If you review the list of hamstring injury causes, you gain clues to how to prevent injury as well. In order to lower your risk for injury, try to:
- Stay flexible by never skipping stretching before you exercise — warming up is essential, every time
- Listen to your body — if it feels like you’re asking too much of it and taxing your hamstrings, you probably are
- Perform hamstring-strengthening exercises regularly; Dr. Coleman can recommend good exercises for this purpose
- Strategic weight training can also ensure that your legs have near-equal strength and aren’t imbalanced
- Pay attention to what you eat, and stay well-hydrated to avoid electrolyte imbalance, which can cause cramping
It might be tempting to just “go for it” when it comes to the physical activity you love doing, but taking care to get your body ready for performing is critical to avoiding injury.
What treatments are available if I do strain or tear my hamstring?
Dr. Coleman learns all he can about your medical history and the injury, and he evaluates your condition. The data gained from these steps helps him create a customized treatment plan. He typically orders imaging tests as well, like an MRI, to better visualize your hamstring problem.
Depending on the type and severity of your injury, he may recommend a combination of:
- RICE treatment (rest, icing the area, compression, and elevation)
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Physical therapy
- A surgical solution
You can’t avoid surgery if you suffer an avulsion. To remedy it, Dr. Coleman removes scar tissue, repositions your hamstring, and reconnects the tendon and muscle to your bone that was ripped away. Recovery takes time and involves plenty of rest and physical therapy, so you can regain your strength and flexibility again.
Call the office that’s most convenient to you so you can schedule an appointment with us to learn more, or use our convenient online booking tool.