Hamstring Strain

What is a hamstring strain?

A hamstring strain is an injury to one or more of the muscles that run along the back of your thigh. It ranges from a mild pull to a complete tear that sometimes pulls off a piece of bone. Most hamstring strains occur in the thick, central part of the muscle or where the muscle fibers and tendon fibers meet.

What causes a hamstring strain?

A hamstring strain happens when one or more of the muscles is stretched beyond its capacity or challenged with a sudden load. The injury is very common among athletes, especially those who do a lot of running, jumping, or sudden stopping and starting. Muscle tightness, muscle imbalance and poor conditioning can raise your risk of a hamstring strain.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms include:

  • A sudden, sharp pain in the back of your thigh during exercise
  • A snapping or popping feeling in the back of the thigh
  • Pain in the back of the thigh and lower buttock when walking, straitening the leg or bending forward
  • Tenderness or bruising in the back of the thigh
  • In severe cases, inability to put weight on your leg

How is a hamstring strain diagnosed?

In addition to a physical exam and medical history, your physician may order imaging tests – such as an X-ray or MRI – to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

Treatment depends on the severity of your strain. Most minor-to-moderate hamstring strains heal on their own. Non-operative measures such as rest, ice, compression, anti-inflammatory medications, brief immobilization in a knee splint and physical therapy can help accelerate healing.

If the muscle is torn or has pulled completely away from the bone, you may need surgery. In this procedure, the surgeon removes any scar tissue and sews the muscle back together or reattaches it using stitches or staples.

Following surgery, patients must keep weight off their leg for up to six weeks. Early physical therapy focuses on flexibility and range of motion, progressing to strength training and gradual return to daily activities and exercise.