Ouch! I pulled my hamstrings.
You know how painful it is when you pull your hamstrings. It could be from straight-ahead running or sprinting, particularly when you tried to accelerate and made longer stride than usual. You could also hurt your hamstrings when you kicked straight without flexing your knee and snapping back. Single-leg exercises such as lunges could be the culprit as well.
Where and what are hamstrings?
The hamstrings are located on the back of your upper leg (thigh) and made of three muscles: biceps femoris, semi tendinosus and semi membranosus. They work together to extend the hips (e.g., deadlift) and flex the knees (e.g., leg curl). When you're running, the hamstrings perform both actions.
See a picture of the hamstrings here >>
What to do first when you hurt your hamstrings?
When you feel strain on the hamstrings, you would feel pain and should look for swelling and discoloration. For the first 48 to 72 hours, ice the area for 10 to 20 minutes for every 2 to 4 hours to reduce the pain and swelling. If your hamstrings look like a big bruise, see your doctor immediately for possible torn muscle.
Read the guideline for ice therapry >>
How to rehab your post-injured hamstrings
If the pain subsides after 48 hours, stretch your hamstrings slowly and start with small range of motion. You can warm up the injured hamstrings with a heat pad to promote circulation before stretching. Instead of doing traditional static stretching (e.g., sit-and-reach), you will do dynamic stretching by gently move muscles through their natural range of motion.
Start with simple side-stepping, backward walking, crossover stepping, exaggerated-length (giant) steps. When you're comforable with these exercises, you can gradually begin to lengthen your step, increase the speed at which you perform the steps, and add some stepups and squats. If the pain persists after 72 hours, see your doctor or physical therapist.
When you're recovering from hamstring injury, try to figure out why you're hurt in the first place and find proper rehab exercises to strengthen the weakness, balance muscle strength or stretch the tightness to prevent reoccurring.
For example, tight hip flexors tend to inhibit your glutes from extending your hips. It forces the hamstrings to work harder to extend the hips. This sets you up for a hamstring overload injury when you sprint, step up, squat or lunge. You can change up your training routine by including Romanian deadlift, hyperextension, good morning, and high stepup. These exercises strengthen the hip-extension action of the hamstrings.
Hamstring Injury Treatment and Stretching >>
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