How to Treat a Pulled Hamstring

A pulled hamstring is a common sports injury. Athletes who are most at risk are those who rely on explosive leg action, especially sprinters.

Many around the world still remember the touching scene when U.S. sprinter Derek Redmond pulled his hamstring, but was helped to the finish line by his father during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

However, it’s not just sprinters who are at risk. Jumpers, skaters as well as participants in football, basketball, baseball and/or soccer also need to be cautious.

Unfortunately, Father Time is not on your hamstrings’ side. Older athletes are more susceptible than younger ones.

What does a pulled hamstring feel like? According to EXOS, the symptoms you may experience include:

  • Severe pain behind the upper leg and/or buttock at the moment of the injury
  • Muscle spasms behind the leg after the injury has occurred
  • Bruising, tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Possible popping or snapping sensation
  • With a complete (Grade 3) tear, you may feel a “ball” of muscle on the back of the leg.

As with other muscle injuries, the R.I.C.E. method is the best way to treat a pulled hamstring.

  • Rest. Rest your hamstring and give the damaged tissues time to repair.
  • Ice. Begin icing the hamstring immediately. The cold will lower pain, swelling and inflammation.
  • Compression. Wrap your leg with an elastic compression bandage until the swelling goes down.
  • Elevation. If possible, elevate your leg higher than the level of your heart. Gravity helps reduce swelling by draining excess fluid.

While there is no foolproof way to completely avoid it, there are ways you can significantly lower your risk:

  • A good warm-up and warm-down routine.
  • Perform leg strengthening exercises to your exercise regimen (e.g. hamstring kicks, squats and lunges)
  • Flexibility exercises (e.g. yoga)