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Hamstring Problems are Not Just for Athletes

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Hamstring problems are not just something we see in athletes. While hamstring injuries can happen to an athlete during a practice or a game, it’s actually much more common for all of us to experience hamstring problems related to everyday activities.  A hamstring injury will start to make you feel stiffness and soreness throughout your leg which will make things like walking, changing positions (getting in and out of the car or a chair, etc) and using stairs more difficult.

What can happen when hamstring problems such as tightness or weakness, isn’t handled right away?

  1. You will feel pain in the hamstring muscle itself.
  2. You will start to have lower back pain.
  3. You will start to feel pain in your knees.
  4. You will start to have discomfort in your calves.

What is the hamstring and why is it injured so often?

The hamstring is located in the back of your leg.  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. Therefore, it is 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.

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.

 

These are all examples of movements that require your hamstring muscles. If done incorrectly, all of these can lead to hamstring problems:

Bending at waist

  • You have to reach down to pick up your child’s toy or put some documents in a lower filing cabinet drawer. Maybe this weekend you were doing things around the house, undoubtedly you had to bend at the waist to garden or do yard work or get laundry out of the washer or dryer.

Exercising

  • You walk from point A to point B a million times a day, whether that’s to walk the dog, walk to the car or walk around the block. You may run or go hiking for exercise.
  • Weight lifting.
  • Athletic injury – torn or pulled hamstring.

Any repetitive activity

 

Some common causes of hamstring problems are:

1) It’s a very long muscle that needs to be stretched a lot especially considering how many times a day we have to bend or complete basic activities or exercise.  Most people have very tight hamstrings, which means those muscles aren’t long enough to properly complete the particular activity once, much less several times.

2) This muscle is a big shock absorber. When you walk, run or perform daily activities, it’s the hamstring’s job to absorb that impact so that your back, knee joints, pelvis or hips don’t have to absorb that force.

3) Because it is a very long muscle, most people, even athletes, actually have very weak hamstrings. This weakness causes tightness even with very mild activities. This tightness makes it so you can’t fully stretch that muscle through the full range of movement.

The most common hamstring problems 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.

**You can see, something as seemingly minor as hamstring tightness, when not handled right away, has a trickle down and up effect on the body and can start making simple tasks painful and difficult. All of these hamstring issues that are not addressed right away or that are chronic will definitely cause more serious issues.

By:  Devin Wurman, DPT, and Mike Bills, DPT

Recovering from a hamstring injury can take a long time so it’s important to seek care immediately after the injury occurs.  Physical therapy can be started to restore the range of motion, strength and guide you in returning to daily activities without further injury.  The guidance of a physical therapist will enable you to recover quicker and return to activities safely! If you or someone you know is dealing with a hamstring problem, CALL our office TODAY at 703-450-4300.

CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.

 

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