Hamstrings are muscles and tendons at the back of the thighs that attach the large thigh muscle to the bone. The term hamstring also refers to a group of three muscles that run along the back of your thigh, from your hip to just below the knee.
These muscles are not used much while walking or standing. However, they are active in activities that involve bending the knees like running, jumping, and climbing.
A hamstring injury is a strain or tear to the tendons or muscles at the back of the thigh. Hamstring injuries are most common in athletes and individuals who are active in sports.
Severity Of Hamstring Injury
Hamstring injuries can range from mild to severe. They are categorized into three grades: grade 1, grade 2, and grade 3 strain.
- Grade 1 strain: This is generally a mild muscle pull or strain. It may be felt as a slight ache or pull at the back of the thigh. The pain may not be experienced immediately; therefore, the cause of this pain may not be recognized. The pain develops gradually. There may be a swelling and pain may be experienced when the knee is extended. Grade 1 strain may be worsened with activities like running and walking up and down the stairs.
- Grade 2 strain: This strain is usually a partial muscle tear. In grade 2 strain, a sharp pain may be felt at the back of the thigh or even higher up toward the buttock. Walking may become difficult as it worsens the strain when the knee is extended. You may also experience a limp while walking. In the affected area, there may also be a swelling and tenderness. In grade 2 strain, you may also feel there is a lack of strength in your affected leg.
- Grade 3 strain: This strain is usually a complete muscle tear. It is a progression of grade 2 strain. Swelling and tenderness felt in grade 3 will be more than the strain felt in grade 2. Usually, grade 3 strain causes an intense blow to the muscle that it may tear with a loud “pop” sound. If there is a significant muscle tear, a dent can be felt at the center of the muscle where it is injured.
Symptoms Of Various Hamstring Injuries
Hamstring injuries can affect your muscles, knee, and tendons. These have the following symptoms.
1. Symptoms Of Pulled Hamstring (Hamstring Strain)
The following symptoms are experienced if you suffer from an acute hamstring strain.
- Sharp pain: If you suffer from a hamstring strain, you will feel a sharp pain at the back of the thighs or buttock.
- Loud pop sound: The sudden pain may be accompanied by a loud pop sound if the muscle of the affected area is severely damaged.
- Painful movement: You will find it painful to move or walk even at a normal pace. You may also find it difficult to get up from a seated position or climb up and down the stairs.
- Bruising: Sometimes, bruising and discoloration may be observed at the back of the thigh.
- Swelling and deformity: If there is a complete tear in the muscle-tendon junction, then there is likely to be a swelling. Sometimes you may also observe a deformity in the affected area.
- Discomfort while sitting: You may also feel uneasy when you are seated as you may experience pain when the knee is extended.
2. Symptoms Of Hamstring Tendon Tear
- Immediate pain: You will experience a sharp pain at the time of injury. This sudden, sharp pain is usually felt in the back of the knee.
- Tenderness: There may be swelling, tenderness, and sensation of heat felt at the point where the tendon inserts into the knee.
- Difficulty in applying pressure: It becomes difficult to transfer your body weight to the affected leg. This may also cause you to limp.
- Painful knee movements: You may also find it difficult to extend your knee while sitting or walking and may not be able to actively bend your knee.
3. Symptoms Of Hamstring Knee Strain
Popliteus is a muscle located at the back of the knee joint. An injury or strain to this muscle can cause pain at the back of the knee. The symptoms include the following:
- Pain: You will experience pain at the back of the knee joint.
- Tenderness: There may be tenderness when pressing in at the back of the knee.
- Difficulty in bending knee: You will find it difficult to bend your knee against resistance. If the injury is severe, then getting your knee straight will be difficult.
- Tightness: Those suffering from this strain generally have tight hamstrings.
4. Symptoms Of High (Chronic) Hamstring Tear
- Pain while sitting: Pain may be felt while pressing or sitting down on the ischial tuberosity, also known as sit bones.
- Pain with repetitive activities: Biking, running, hiking, and other repetitive activities can aggravate posterior (back) pain.
- Pain while running or sprinting: If you are a runner, you may notice that the pain increases when you accelerate or sprint. It gets worse when the body begins to slow down. In severe cases, it may also prevent you from sprinting.
- Pain while bending: As mentioned earlier, it may cause a sharp pain at the ischial tuberosity or sit bone. As a result, it may cause pain while bending at the hip, when it is fully flexed. For instance, you may experience pain while tying your shoes or bending to pick something from the ground.
Hamstring injuries are painful and care should be given to the injured part in the first few days. Getting enough rest is important as you need to keep the injured area as still as possible. The time you need to rest depends on the severity of your injury. It is best to avoid physical activities and vigorous exercises.