Hamstring injuries are extremely common. Many people suffering from a hamstring injury experience a stabbing pain in the back of their leg, especially during physical activity.
The hamstring is made up of three different muscles: the biceps femoris, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus. When you experience a pulled or strained hamstring, you have injured one or more of these muscles.
Your hamstring muscles play a very important role in helping you bend your knee and stretch out your leg behind you and they are also very important when you are running fast or sprinting.
Hamstring injuries vary in intensity. Sometimes people are able to continue physical activity with a minor hamstring strain, whereas more severe injuries may make any type of athletic participation impossible.
If you experience a hamstring injury, like a strain, your medical provider will likely evaluate it based on various grades of severity. A grade 1 hamstring strain is the most minor - sometimes called a hamstring pull. With a grade 1 hamstring injury, you will likely experience pain in the back of your leg, especially when pushing yourself at faster speeds, but you will still be able to walk and move around quite easily.
If you have a more serious strain, a grade 2, you might find yourself limping while you are walking. You will also likely experience shooting pain in the back of your leg during physical activity and you may also have some swelling.
In the most severe cases of injury, a grade 3 injury, you may have an actual tear in your muscle. These types of hamstring injuries are marked by intense physical pain and swelling, typically requiring people to use crutches since walking is difficult.
Many factors can lead to a strained hamstring. Here are six things to be aware of that can cause a hamstring injury.
- Tight and stiff muscles - if you do not stretch regularly, especially if you are involved in athletic activities and competitive play, you may find that your hamstrings are quite sore. This muscle group is very susceptible to damage if too tight.
- Tired muscles - if you are over-training and have pushed your body too far, or you have increased your training suddenly without adequate preparation, you might find that you suffer from some type of hamstring injury. When muscles get tired, they are more prone to injury.
- Muscular weakness - if your hamstrings are not conditioned, you might find that they cannot handle the stress of physical activity, leading to injury.
- Imbalanced muscles - if you have some muscles that are most more conditioned than others, it can lead to strain. Many people have more developed quadriceps on the front of their legs and weaker hamstrings. The imbalance between these two important muscle groups may cause damage and injury.
- Age - teens and young adults are more likely than people in other age groups to experience hamstring injuries. Young people are more likely to experience hamstring injuries because their bodies are still developing and muscles do not tend to grow at the same speed as bones. If a person is experiencing a growth sport, their bones may grow a lot quicker than their muscles. This may make their muscles more vulnerable to tearing.
- Certain physical activities - if you are heavily involved in activities that include a lot of running, jumping and pounding, you are at a greater risk of experiencing a hamstring injury. Running, dancing, soccer, football, basketball, and soccer are all activities that may could potentially put you at risk for hamstring injuries.
If you think you have an injured hamstring, or some other type of injury causing you pain in your legs, it is advisable that you consult a qualified medical professional like a board certified sports medicine doctor for a thorough evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. As with most sports injuries, if left untreated, these types of injuries can become more severe and take much longer to heal.