A muscle is said to be strained when it stretches beyond it’s usual limits and tears. This is also known as a ‘pulled muscle’.
Hamstrings are a group of muscle lying at the back of your thighs. These are three muscles called: semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris. These start below the pelvis and move through the back of thigh and end in back of lower leg. It is not uncommon to strain hamstring muscle, especially if you are a sports person playing football, an athlete, a skater, sprinter or even a dancer or your work involves strenuous physical activity. A strained hamstring muscle creates problem in bending your knees and straightening/ extending your legs. This is more likely to happen if you experience a sudden jerk. So, warming up before any exercise and doing some stretching exercises is really important and unfortunately, often ignored by many of use.
Severity of Pulled Hamstring
Grade 1: mild muscle strain
Grade 2: partial muscle tearing
Grade 3: complete muscle tear, often needs surgery.
Features of A Strained Hamstring Muscle
Hamstring strains most commonly occur in the region where the muscle fibres join the tendon fibres( the thickest part of this muscle group). Tendon is a form of connective tissue that connects the muscle to the bone. In very serious form of hamstring strain, the muscle might be pulled apart from the bone in totality.
A sudden painful sensation at the back of thigh which aggravates on bending, trying to sit straight, bending leg at knee level, trying to stand straight or trying to walk.
A feeling of stretch or tear.
Bruising with bluish discolouration of the back of the thigh.
Investigations For A Pulled Hamstring
This involves physical examination by a doctor.
You might need to get certain X rays, to rule out complete detachment of the muscle from the bone (tendon avulsion).
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans: To get better soft tissue imaging.
Treatment And Recovery of Strained Hamstring Muscle
It is must to see your orthopaedic surgeon and physiotherapist. Also, it is of utmost importance to return to normal physical activity slowly and gradually as pushing yourself too far might need to recurrence of pulled hamstring or even tear. Recurrent injuries are often of more permanent nature and chronic.
The recovery depends on the severity of tear or strain on your muscle group, your general health and amount of rest you take. In grade 1 injury, usually 2 to 6 days might be needed. Grade 2 injuries take a week to a fortnight. Grade 3 injuries might take somewhere between 3 to 6 months.
Mild to moderately pulled hamstrings, usually recover on their own after sufficient rest and a few painkillers and muscle relaxants.
In severe cases, you might need help from a walking stick, a walker or crutches for a couple of days till you can walk comfortably on your own. This is to avoid further damage to the muscle.
Often, a compression bandage or a knee splint might be needed to avoid unnecessary strain on the muscle.
Topical pain relief gels that containing diclofenac are available over the counter.
Oral medications that contain : Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, diclofenac, seratiopeptidase and naproxen might be taken on prescription of your doctor who would best guide you about the dosage, indications and contraindications of these medicines as per your general physical heath, concurrent medications you might be taking and your history of drug allergies.
Keep your leg slightly elevated during sitting or lying down. This is to reduce swelling.
An ice pack over the affected area also helps to bring down the swelling and discomfort. This needs to be done twice or thrice a day.
You might need to see your physio therapist who might advise you regarding certain strengthening exercises.
In severe cases, you might need a surgery. However, most grade 1 and 2 injuries can be treated by non surgical treatment. Grade 3 injuries might need surgery to repair tendon avulsions and complete tears. The procedure is carried out under general or epidural anaesthesia.
After recovery, you need to be on follow up appointments with your doctor for a couple of weeks.