Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hamstring strain recovery

Here is my post on recovery after a hamstring injury. Check out my previous post on hamstring strains for structure, function, signs, symptoms and risk factors.


When a hamstring injury is suspected it is advised to seek early medical attention from a sport medicine physician and physical therapist. They will be able to identify the severity of the injury and prescribe a very careful rehabilitation program. They will also be better is assisting you with return to sport thus minimizing the chance for re-injury. I see many patients that have made a minor injury significantly worse by trying to run too soon after the initial injury. They often feel the need to “test it” with a short run even though they don’t have a pain-free and unrestricted normal walking stride.

In the early stages of recovery stretching is avoided, as this actually slows the healing process by prohibiting muscle regeneration. I use the analogy of pulling the edges of an open wound apart. We don’t do that as it slow the healing process. When many “ old school” family practitioners diagnosis a hamstring injury, they often tell the patient to rest, heat and stretch. The research shows this is definitely the wrong approach and will likely lead to re-injury.

Restricted mobility of the hamstring is addressed by moving in the pain-free range of motion. Ice will help if it is done 2-3 times per day. The duration of ice depends on how the ice is delivered./ 5-8 minutes with an ice cup and up to 10 –20 minutes with a cold pack. Early stage exercises are done in a pain-free range of motion without direct resistance to the injured hamstring (no hamstring curl machines).

When pain-free and normal walking stride is achieved more functional strengthening is added. Aggressive stretching to end range should still be avoided. Core work and gluteal strengthening are emphasized. Hamstring curl machines are avoided as this is not strengthening the hamstring in a functional manner. Exercises that work the hamstring eccentrically (contracting but lengthening) are recommended. Speed of movement is gradually introduced and is one of the last things to improve. Return to running programs begin with downhill walks and uphill jogs progressing to continuous jogging to running over several weeks.

Hopefully this is helpful. Remember to seek help early, ice, avoid stretching an injured hamstring, avoid hamstring curl machines and don’t try to return to running too early!

No comments: