Hamstring Strains – Treatment & How to Prevent Them Recurring


The hamstring muscles are a group of three muscles that run down the posterior part of the thigh, all the way from the hip to below the knee. These three muscles are called the bicep femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus and they are incredibly powerful!

The hamstring muscles are responsible for the extension of the hip and leg, and to allow bending at the knee. If any one of these muscles is stretched too far or overloaded, injury can occur. A lot of pressure is put on the hamstring during sprinting and sportspeople involved in AFL, soccer and track events can be prone to hamstring injuries.

The hamstring can be injured in a number of locations, such as the sheath around the muscle, the muscle fibres or tendons. If the muscle fibres, or muscle belly is injured, bleeding at the site will occur immediately. When the blood begins to clot then the body’s natural inflammatory response will occur, and in the more severe injuries this will show up as visible bruising at the injury site.

It is worth noting that physiotherapists often recommend that this inflammatory response is allowed to occur naturally – that is, using ice packs or anti-inflammatory medications can inhibit the body’s process so seek advice on this as soon as possible.

The body is capable of clearing out the damaged tissue and tissue is regenerated. Initially this new tissue isn’t very strong and specific exercise and loading can assist with stimulating better remodelling of the new muscle tissue.

Treatment for a Hamstring Strain

The rehabilitation for a hamstring injury depends on the location of the damage and the tissue type. A sports physio can provide guidance and the team at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy have qualified staff who are experienced with all types of muscle and tendon injuries.

Your physio will follow the following guidelines, working closely with you to tailor a treatment plan and work at a pace that suits your specific injury and recovery goals.

1.   Deload & Avoid Running

●  For the first few days you don’t want to overstretch your hamstring so don’t run at all.

●  Compression is really important initially to help minimise swelling.

●  Try to avoid anti-inflammatory medication for the first 48 hours, to allow the body’s natural response to kick in.

2.   Early Mobilisation

●  For optimal recovery there needs to be a balance between rest and loading of the muscle. No longer is it advised to fully rest for injuries.

●  Appropriate early mobilisation of soft tissue injuries can really improve healing in the early stages as well as reducing loss of strength. When load is added to a muscle it is stimulated at the cellular level and this leads to increased growth, better orientation of muscle fibres and a reduction in scar tissue.

3.   Slow Return to Running

●  Hamstrings may be able to withstand slow and steady running as early as 3 or 4 days after the injury occurs.

●  Before trying any running, you must be able to walk and do a hamstring bridge without any pain.

●  Other exercise types such as cycling may be helpful.

4.   Restore Hamstring Strength

●  Strengthening your hamstring is crucial, but do it at a gradual pace, moving through static, dynamic and eccentric (muscle lengthening) movements.

●  Nordic hamstring exercises can be really beneficial, provided they are performed correctly and with appropriate reps and sets. These are very tough exercises so be guided by your physio about timing and frequency.

5.   Sprint Training

●  Sprinting is vital for preventing hamstring strains. You will need 90% strength of your asymptomatic side and be able to perform a minimum of 25 single leg hamstring bridges before sprinting.

●  Athletes will need to clear a number of sprint sessions within a week before it is deemed safe to return to their sport.

●  Ongoing sprint training can minimise a recurring hamstring sprain.

How to Prevent Further Hamstring Sprains

There are definitely some things to consider adding to your training routine to minimise the risk of hamstring strains in the future.

●  It is important to be consistent with your load and stay aerobically fit for overall injury prevention.

●  Perform strengthening exercises that work across all ranges of hip extension and knee flexion. Your physio can provide a range of exercises to help strengthen the lower body.

●  As mentioned above, sprinting can really assist with reducing hamstring injuries by developing the muscles in this area, so they are strong and powerful.

●  Include the Nordic exercises, just remember to get some assistance until you have the technique correct and can perform them safely.

Unfortunately, hamstring strains are pretty common, particularly in sports that are based on sprinting. Remember to schedule an appointment with a specialised sports physio as soon as possible to get on the road to recovery. Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy will guide you into an early mobilisaton phase and strengthening program so you can return to your sport as soon as practical.

It’s also worth mentioning that the team of specialists Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy offers a wide range of services to address various issues. Whether you’re dealing with lower back pain, in need of deep tissue massage, or require soft tissue therapy, the experts here can help. 

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