How to Treat and Prevent a Sore Hamstring
A sore hamstring muscle can be pretty uncomfortable and disruptive. This is largely because the hamstring is part of a large muscle group that is used almost constantly in everyday activities. Hamstring injuries are common in athletes, but they also happen to regular people, usually during exercise. Treating a sore hamstring can usually be done at home, unless the injury is severe enough to require a doctor’s care. The best way to deal with a sore hamstring, however, is by preventing injury altogether.
What is the hamstring?
The hamstring is actually part of one of the largest and most powerful muscle groups in the body. It is located on the back of the upper part of the leg, and it extends from just below the pelvis to just above the shin or calf. The hamstring muscle is required for many sporting activities, but it is used for normal activity as well. The hamstring is put into play when we extend the hip in order to move our legs, and it is also used to bend and straighten the knee. As you can see, pain in the hamstring can affect some very common movements, even in relatively inactive people.
Causes of hamstring injuries
Hamstring injuries are found most frequently in highly active people, like athletes and those who exercise on a regular basis. Runners are especially susceptible to hamstring problems, as are dancers and soccer players. A hamstring injury can occur when the hamstring is overextended or overworked, which can easily result in straining the muscle. Severe injuries can result in tearing the hamstring muscle.
Treating the sore hamstring
The first thing to do if you suspect that you have injured your hamstring is to stop whatever you are doing immediately. If you are running and feel pain in the hamstring, do not continue running on a possibly injured muscle. Continuing to use a sore or damaged hamstring muscle can easily lead to more severe injury. Once you stop and the pain subsides, evaluate what happened and determine how severe you think the injury may be. If the pain does not lessen, a doctor visit may be in order, but this is up to the individual to decide.
The best treatment for an injured hamstring is rest, which is the last thing most active people want to hear. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury will not heal if it is continuously exposed to the same types of strenuous activities that caused the injury to begin with. And rest does not mean jogging instead of running. Rest means no workouts for 2 or 3 days to give the muscle time to recuperate.
During the rest and recuperation period, the muscle should be iced down several times a day to promote healing. To do this, simply wrap an icepack in a towel, and place the wrap around the injured area. (The icepack is wrapped to alleviate the discomfort of placing the ice directly on the injured area.) Keep the ice on the hamstring for around 20 minutes during each icing session for maximum benefit. This can be done 3 or 4 times each day, or as time permits.
Stretching is another way to treat a hamstring injury, and this is how many injuries can be prevented as well. Proper stretching is vital to every successful exercise program. If the hamstring is already sore or injured, do a very slow stretch and gently allow the muscle to work itself out. Never overextend an injured muscle. Always take it slow to avoid further damage. Proper stretching before a workout can also prevent injuries from happening in the first place.