Athletes who run for their sport or training routine, weekend warriors, or chasing after your pet may all experience this injury, a pulled hamstring. There are different degrees to this injury and some may require further medical attention. If you cannot bend your leg at all, bear weight through that leg, or there is a massive amount of bruising, better to be safe than sorry, and go to hospital for a closer look. But, for those who do not require immediate medical attention, here’s a guide to getting back to the activity you love.
HARD STOP. We all know someone or heard through the grapevine, “stretch that hamstring back to life,” or something like that. While stretching at times does make it feel good, and stretching overall does cause relaxation. It may be making the tissue more aggravated. Think about how the pulled hamstring happened, you OVERstretched it or OVERstrained it. Doing the same thing, even on a less intense scale, can prolong the hamstring’s recovery. Stretching can be reintroduced at a later time, but right now is not that time. Walking around every thirty minutes or so may keep that “tight” feeling at bay and get some blood flow to that muscle group.
Start By Working Around The Pulled Hamstring
Getting things moving is key to musculoskeletal injuries, and that includes a pulled hamstring. But this is a pretty uncomfortable injury, so moving and strengthening the muscles that the hamstring helps may be a good place to start. The hip muscles and hamstrings sometimes act together to create movement of the leg, or they both work with the same motions. Starting some simple hip and glute exercises like, facedown hip extensions, hip abductions, and/or donkey kicks are good places to start. This is like “double dipping;” getting that hamstring to contract some, while not making it more aggravated can actually make it feel better as well.
Ready to Work
We said stop stretching, so what are you supposed to do instead? We want you to load it! But when? An easy guideline is when the pain is a 4 or below on the zero to ten scale. You may still feel it when you are walking or doing some daily tasks, but a pulled hamstring needs to workout. Starting with simple standing hamstring curls, light resistance banded hamstring curls lying down, or adding some bridges to your routine can make a quick difference. Keeping the pain below a five is key to loading the hamstring appropriately and safely.
Research supports training muscle groups daily, at sub-maximal levels is safe and conducive for strength gains.
Simple to Compound Exercises
Just like other muscles, the hamstrings work in various ways. So you want to be sure to train it in more than one way. Loading up simple exercises (the ones listed above) should be happening as they become easier for you. Progressing towards bodyweight lunges, single leg bridges, single leg straight leg deadlifts are all next steps to accomplish. When completing those exercises stopping at the point that you feel a tightness or a small discomfort is a good place to start. As the hamstrings get stronger that “sticking point” will change and you will be able to complete more range of motion and/or add some weight. Keeping the discomfort below a five is key to success.
Plyometrics, running, and sprinting are all complex movements that require a lot more than just strength. So you do not want to jump right back into these activities. Starting with jogging and hopping and then progressing to single leg hopping are all good tests to see where you are at and what that pulled hamstring may be ready for. You should not be completing these every day; starting every two days is a safe place to start. Warm ups are keys to these activities so you never go into these cold. Skips, tip overs, squats, lunges, and a light jog all prime these muscles for their job. Adding other cardio options like biking, may give you a nice alternative to running while still maintaining your cardiovascular system, depending on what stage of healing you are in.
Treatment for a Pulled Hamstring
Pulled hamstrings are not fun, but they happen. Giving your body time to heal is key, but that does not mean sit and stretch. Completing the tips above hopefully gets you back on track sooner rather than later. If you still are not making the progress you want or the pain is lingering, do not hesitate to reach out to us for a Free Phone Consultation here at P3!