During the physical exam, your doctor will check for swelling and points of tenderness along the back of your thigh. The location and intensity of your pain can help determine the extent and nature of the damage.
Your doctor might also move your injured leg into a variety of positions to help pinpoint which muscle has been injured and if you also have any ligament or tendon damage.
In severe hamstring injuries, the muscle can tear or even detach from where it's connected to the pelvis or shinbone. Sometimes, a small piece of bone is pulled away (avulsion fracture) from the main bone when this detachment occurs. X-rays can check for avulsion fractures, while ultrasound and MRIs can visualize tears in your muscles and tendons.
To stretch your hamstring muscles, extend one leg out in front of you and then lean forward until you feel the stretch in the back of your thigh. Repeat with the other leg. Don't bounce.
The initial goal of treatment is to reduce pain and swelling. To accomplish this, your doctor may recommend that you do the following:
- Take a break from strenuous activities to allow the injury to heal.
- Use a cane or crutches to avoiding putting your full weight on your injured leg.
- Apply ice packs several times a day to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
- Wrap the injured area with a compression bandage or wear compression shorts to minimize swelling.
- Rest with your leg elevated above the level of your heart, if possible, to improve drainage and minimize swelling.
- Take an over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), to reduce pain and inflammation.
After the initial pain and swelling of a hamstring injury subside, your doctor or a physical therapist can show you how to perform specific exercises designed to improve flexibility and strengthen your hamstring muscles.
If your muscle has pulled free from where it's connected to your pelvis or shinbone, orthopedic surgeons can reattach it. Severe muscle tears also can be repaired.
Preparing for your appointment
While you may initially consult your family physician, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in musculoskeletal medicine, such as someone in sports medicine or orthopedic surgery.
What you can do
You may want to write a list that includes:
- Detailed descriptions of your symptoms
- Information about medical problems you've had
- All the medications and dietary supplements you take
- Questions you want to ask the doctor
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor probably will ask some of the following questions:
- When did the injury occur and how exactly did it happen?
- Did you feel a popping or tearing sensation?
- Does any particular motion or position ease or worsen the pain?
Nov. 17, 2020
- Alzahrani M, et al. Hamstring injuries in athletes: Diagnosis and treatment. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. 2015;3:e5.
- DeLee JC, et al. Hamstring injuries. In: DeLee & Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2015. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 13, 2015.
- Hay WW, et al. Sports medicine. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 22nd ed. New York, N.Y.: McGrawHill Education; 2014. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Sept. 13, 2015.
- Sprains and strains. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/sprains_strains/default.asp. Accessed Sept. 13, 2015.
- Fields KB, et al. Hamstring muscle and tendon injuries. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 13, 2015.
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