Strained hamstring

Hamstring Strains in Runners

Runners, particularly sprinters, frequently suffer hamstring strains. Those who live on Long Island are fortunate to have the accomplished physiatrists of Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine available to offer a number of effective, non-surgical treatments for this problem. We are medical doctors whose specialty is alleviating pain and restoring function. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we will get you back on track.

What are hamstring strains?

The hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh and are composed of three muscles that work in conjunction. Strains to these muscles are graded according to their severity:

  • Grade I tears are characterized by damage to 10 percent or less of the muscle, resulting in pain but no weakness or loss of function. 
  • Grade II tears are characterized by damage to up to 15 percent of the muscle; they result in both pain and weakness, though patients still have use of their hamstrings.
  • Grade III tears are considerably more severe, resulting in 50 percent or more muscle damage. Patients with grade III hamstring tears not only experience pain and weakness but lose hamstring function entirely.

Causes of Hamstring Strains in Runners

The two basic causes of hamstring strains in runners are: 

1. Repetitive Stress on the Muscles Without Adequate Rest

While the microdamage that occurs when runners use their hamstrings during exercise strengthens these muscles by causing them to repair and grow, if there is insufficient time between spurts of exercise, the body doesn’t have enough time to repair. Repetitive damage to the hamstrings without time to recuperate results in a breakdown of muscle tissue, resulting in increased pain and weakness.

2. Excessive Force in a Single Event 

A single jolt of force that pushes the hamstrings past their normal limits is a traumatic event that can do severe damage to the muscle tissue. This is relatively common among sprinters pushing themselves as hard as they can or in other runners who speed up as they approach the finish line. The greater the speed, the more likely excessive force is being used. As the hamstrings contract to protect themselves, the opposing forces being exerted can cause the muscles to suffer serious tears.

How to Prevent Hamstring Strains in Runners

Since hamstring strains, like other muscle injuries, can often be traced to insufficient warm-ups, one way to prevent them is to warm up with a brisk walk or light jog prior to running. This will help your hip muscles as well as your hamstrings. Because cold muscles are stiffer than warm ones, they are more easily torn. Exercising them lightly as a prelude to greater exertion is a good strategy to lessen your risk of a hamstring tear.

Another good tactic to prevent hamstring strains is to build up your core muscles so that when you exercise one set of muscles balances the other. It is particularly important to keep your quadriceps and hamstrings balanced because they work in direct opposition to one another. If your quadriceps (at the front of the thigh) are stronger and tighter than your hamstrings, you are at increased risk of a hamstring strain. For this reason, teenage runners, whose bones and muscles often grow at different rates, are especially susceptible to hamstring injuries.

How Long Island Spine Can Help Runners or Others with Hamstring Injuries

Our doctors know the symptoms of hamstring strains all too well. They include swelling and soreness, extreme bruising at the back of the leg, pain when the leg is bent or straightened, and inability to walk.

When patients come to us with these symptoms we are well-prepared to diagnose the problem through imaging tests, ultrasound, diagnostic injections, or electromyography (EMG). You can depend on us the pinpoint your difficulty and treat it quickly and effectively with a broad range of both traditional and complementary therapies, including:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) 
  • PEMF (Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) technology

Suffering from a Hamstring Strain? Contact Our Experienced Physiatrists Today.