Best exercises to treat hamstring injuries
The Hamstring muscle group consists of three muscles which are located at the back of your thigh. The primary function of the hamstring is to bend your knee, but it also assists in moving your hip back.
Hamstring injuries are one of the most common injuries in sports. Particularly in sports which require repetitive movement, fast acceleration and deceleration, and change in direction. This includes, but not limited to: football, rugby, basketball, running and cycling. One of the main reasons why hamstring muscles are prone to injuries is because it is a biarticular muscle, meaning it spans two joints, which are the bottom of your hip and the knee.
Because the muscle is biarticular, it constantly has to perform two different tasks every time we run. For example, when a person is pushing off to initiate the run the knee is being extended and straightened. Simultaneously, the hip is being extended too. However, because of the attachment sites of the hamstring muscle, it almost has to be able to contract and stretch at the same time to allow this to happen. It places a significant amount of strain on the muscle.
Other potential reasons for hamstring strains are insufficient strength and length of the muscle or muscle having to overcompensate for the weaker links such as glutes, your bottom muscles, and weak core. The muscles may also be predisposed to injury by biomechanical alterations in the body, particularly the pelvis area and the knees. Common hamstring injuries are listed below:
- Hamstring strains
- Pes Anserine tendinopathy
- Pes Anserine bursitis
Hamstring strains are the most common hamstring injuries. Strain is a tear in the muscle and it can occur in the muscle belly, which is the middle of your hamstring, or at the tendons, which are there to connect the muscle to bone.
- Symptoms: You would usually feel sharp pain anywhere at the back of your thigh during the physical activity. Depending on the severity of the strain, you may also see bruising at the back of your thigh and feel indentation or a lump.
- Causes: Injuries most commonly occur while sprinting, accelerating or decelerating vigorously, or going for a sliding tackle in football. There are few predisposing aspects for hamstring strain. Most often it gets injured due to insufficient strength and length.
- Self-management: Strengthening and stretching the hamstrings. Eccentric loading is known as being one of the most effective types of strengthening exercises.
Pes Anserine tendinopathy
Pes Anserine tendinopathy is an overuse related injury. It affects the hamstring attachment site which is at the inside of the knee just below the kneecap.
- Symptoms: Pain at the inside of the knee just below the kneecap which comes on with physical activity. Depending on the severity of the injury, it may persist and worsen with activity or it may ease off with activity.
- Causes: repetitive use of the muscle and insufficient stretching.
- Self-management: stretching, strengthening and foam rolling. Eccentric loading is known to be great in treating tendinopathies. You will have to moderate the physical activity.
Pes Anserine bursitis
Pes Anserine bursitis is known as the inflammation of the bursae which is located at the inside of the knee below the kneecap. Bursae is a sac filled of fluid which prevents the friction of the tendon over bone.
- Symptoms: Pain at the inside of the knee just below the kneecap which is worsening with physical activity. Visual puffiness of the area might also be present.
- Causes: repetitive overuse of the muscle and lack of flexibility.
- Self-management: stretching, foam rolling and moderating the physical activity.
Bridge on heels:
Lie on your back. Bend your knees to approximately 70 degrees and lift your toes up towards the ceiling. Relax your neck and shoulders and have them flat of the floor. Push your hips up maintaining the toe elevation.
Hold: 3 seconds
Hamstring walk outs:
Lie on your back. Bend your knees and have your toes pointing up. Push your hips up and taking small steps walk out as far as you feel comfortable. Then walk back in again and lower your hips down.
Reps: 5 walk outs
Foam rolling the hamstrings:
Place the foam roller underneath the back of your thigh. Slowly move your body up and down on the foam roller. Stop and hover at the tender areas for the tension to ease off.
Time: 45 seconds
Lie on your back. Use a towel to wrap under your foot and keeping your knee straight bring your leg up towards you. You can move the leg in and out to stretch different areas of the hamstring.
Hold: 30 seconds
Find a solid, heavy object which will be able to support you. Fix your feet or ankles under it. Get into kneeling position. From there engage your hamstrings and glutes and lower yourself down with control as far as you feel comfortable. Then disengage and allow your body to drop down. Ensure to catch yourself using your arms, then push off into the starting position and repeat.
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