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Hamstring injury

A hamstring injury is a strain or tear to the tendons or muscles at the back of the thigh.

Common symptoms of a hamstring injury include sudden pain, tenderness and swelling at the back of your thigh.

Hamstring injuries usually heal on their own in a few days or weeks. Rest your leg, keep it elevated and use cold packs for the first few days.

Hamstring injuries often occur during sudden movements, such as sprinting, lunging or jumping.

Read more on the NHS website.

Common symptoms of a hamstring injury include sudden pain, tenderness and swelling at the back of your thigh.

How do I know if I've injured my hamstring?

Mild hamstring strains (grade 1) will usually cause sudden pain and tenderness at the back of your thigh. It may be painful to move your leg, but the strength of the muscle should not be affected.

Partial hamstring tears (grade 2) are usually more painful and tender. There may also be some swelling and bruising at the back of your thigh and you may have lost some strength in your leg.

Severe hamstring tears (grade 3) will usually be very painful, tender, swollen and bruised. There may have been a "popping" sensation at the time of the injury and you'll be unable to use the affected leg.

Read more on the NHS website.

Hamstring injuries usually heal on their own in a few days or weeks. Rest your leg, keep it elevated and use cold packs for the first few days.

Self-care

Recovering from a hamstring injury may take days, weeks or months, depending on how severe it is.

A completely torn hamstring may take several months to heal and you'll be unable to resume training or play sport during this time.

Initial treatment

During the first 2 or 3 days, you should care for your injury using RICE therapy:

  • Rest – keep your leg as still as you possibly can and avoid physical activity. Your GP may recommend using crutches in more severe cases.
  • Ice – apply cold packs (a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel will also work) to your hamstring for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours during the day. Do not apply ice directly to your skin.
  • Compression – compress or bandage the thigh to limit any swelling and movement that could cause further damage. You can use a simple elastic bandage or elasticated tubular bandage available from a pharmacy.
  • Elevation – keep your leg raised and supported on a pillow as much as possible, to help reduce any swelling.

Regular painkillers, such as paracetamol or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) cream or gel, may also help relieve the pain.

Short-term use of oral NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen tablets, can also help reduce swelling and inflammation. However, these are not suitable for everyone. Check the leaflet that comes with your medicine to see if you can take it.

Gentle exercises and stretches

Returning to strenuous exercise too quickly could make your injury worse, but avoiding exercise for too long can cause your hamstring muscles to shrink and scar tissue to form around the tear.

To avoid this, you should start doing gentle hamstring stretches after a few days, when the pain has started to subside.

This should be followed by a programme of gentle exercise, such as walking and cycling, and hamstring strengthening exercises.

Your GP can give you further advice and, if necessary, refer you to a physiotherapist for a suitable exercise programme.

To avoid injuring yourself again, you should only return to a full level of activity when your hamstring muscles are strong enough. Your physiotherapist or GP will be able to advise you about this.

Many people need to avoid sports for at least a few weeks, but the length of time you need off will depend on the severity of your injury.

Read more on the NHS website.

Hamstring injuries often occur during sudden movements, such as sprinting, lunging or jumping.

Read more on the NHS website.