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Ever noticed bruising or swelling in this large, lower body muscle?

By: Devin Wurman, DPT

I’m sure there have been numerous times you have watched a sporting event, or even participated in a sport yourself and heard the statement, “I’ve pulled my hamstring!” They often grab the back of their leg and have to hobble off of the field or court in pain. So it begs the questions, what is the hamstring and why is it injured so often?

The hamstring complex is made up of three muscles that originate from the ischial tuberosity (bone in the buttock region), proceeds down the back of your leg, and then crosses the knee on either side. It is therefore considered a two-joint muscle. It is most common for people to strain or injure a hamstring in the thick part of the muscle, or where the muscle and tendon merge.

The most common hamstring injuries are due to muscle overload. People that participate in football, soccer, basketball, and sprinting/running tend to injure the hamstring more often. In addition, kids that are going through growth spurts may also have issues with the hamstring because their bones are growing faster than their muscles. The muscles are therefore pulled taught and one sudden quick move can cause an injury.

How do you know if you have an injury to the hamstring? Most of the time, you will see the following signs:

  • Swelling at the site of the injury
  • Discoloration/bruising behind the leg
  • The bruising will go further down past the knee because gravity will pull down the blood and fluid
  • You will also notice weakness in the leg, which is most evident when using stairs, changing positions, and walking

Recovering from a hamstring injury can take a long time. Immediately after the injury occurs, you will want to initiate RICE; rest from any activity that increases the pain, ice the area, provide compression to the area to keep down swelling, and finally, elevate the leg to reduce swelling. After this, physical therapy can be started to restore the range of motion, strength and guide you in returning to daily activities without further injury. Early treatment with RICE and physical therapy has shown to result in better function and return to sports. Many people try to return to sports or activities too soon and risk further injury, which will sideline you for a much longer period of time.  The guidance of a physical therapist will enable you to recover quicker and return to activity safely! If you or someone you know is dealing with a hamstring problems whether that be a pulled muscle or some general tightness or weakness, call our office TODAY at 703-450-4300.

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