Hi, I'm Dr. Molly with Your Goals Physical Therapy, hamstring pulls have got to be one of the most frustrating injuries out there. Not that all injuries aren't obnoxious, but it always feels like you pull your hamstring when you hit your stride running. You finally get this good pace going, you know, you're going to beat your prior time for what you're doing that day. And bam, one of your hamstrings, you just feel it pull and now you're walking the rest of the way. Or you're like the guy that I saw at the USA powerlifting meet the other day. He was getting set up to pull 700 pounds, which is why I was paying attention, because that seemed very shocking to me. I was like, whew, 700 pounds. I got to see this. I got to see somebody be able to lift that.
That's impressive. Anybody who's willing to train that hard and for that long is very, very impressive. And so I see him, he gets ready. He gets into his stance. He bends down to pick up the bar and all of a sudden you just see it. He grabs the back of his leg and hops up. (I'm not sure, but there may have been some adult language.) He takes off his lifting belt and he's off the platform there and he never returns. You see him the rest of the time at the meet he's limping. It's very obvious that he injured his hamstring, just getting down into that position.
I figured let's talk about how we handle hamstring strains or hamstring pulls, pardon me. That can happen only once, if you're scouring the earth right now, because you just pulled your hamstring and it's never happened before. Or maybe you're falling across this, because you pull your hamstring all the time and you're wondering why.
I'm going to go over a little bit of both. Things that you can do right now, if you're actively suffering from a hamstring strain and then what you should do if this is something that keeps reoccurring for you. So that could be runners, powerlifters, people pull their hamstring squatting. I know some people who have pulled their hamstring, just bending over for something in their house. Bending over just triggered their hamstring to cramp. People who bike ride, especially if you're into the long distance or you're really trying to up your speed, hamstrings just get pulled.
Let's just talk about some things that you can do at home.
Well actually before that, why don't I tell you why hamstrings get pulled? That might be a better place to start. Hamstrings get pulled when they're being asked to do a lot of work at their max stretch capacity.
Basically at the full length of your hamstring, when your leg is stretched out as far as your hamstring will go, and then it's asked to contract (typically pretty quickly hence when you're running that becomes a problem.)
Squatting, because when you squat down, your hamstring is going to be lengthened and the same thing with deadlifting. So, and again, biking, all these things. So it's typically when that one hamstring is, out really far and then you go to pull it back, that's when you feel the muscle spasm or where she feels like something got torn.
What do you do to help your hamstring out at that moment? If you don't have any bruising, then I would ice it and rest for a little bit and then gently stretch. And I mean, gently, you don't want to be aggressive. You just want to go to the point where the hamstring feels like there's a little tension and you hang out there for 30 seconds to a minute. I would do that for several days. You're not being aggressive at all. You're just trying to calm everything down. Then after that you slowly start to strengthen that muscle again, as long as your pain level doesn't go up. What drives your recovery is how annoyed your hamstring is.
If after a couple of days, your hamstring doesn't bother you. There you go. It was just annoying for that moment and we're on with life. But if it's persistent, you want to be icing it, especially if there's any swelling you want to be icing it, you want to gently stretch it.
As long as that resolves and you're able to start strengthening it within a week or two, then that was probably just a freak accident. And you know, everything moves on.
If you see bruising, you need to go see somebody because that means something tore. You need to have somebody assess how damaged or how torn your hamstring is. It could be really minor or it could be major and you need somebody else to help you figure that out. I mean, you can't even see that really your own hamstring unless you're looking at a mirror, right? You need somebody else to help you to determine how much strength loss, how much swelling and things like that. It might not mean that you have to have imaging, but it might not. It's just to make sure that everything is intact because bruising means something tore. That would be the best course of action, just go find out what it is right then and there as soon as possible. That way you know what needs to be done to help your hamstring.
Now, there are people who suffer from hamstring pulls all the time. It's not like one incident, it's like every six months.I work with a client right now, whose goal after his second hip replacement was to get back to being able to powerlift 500 pounds. So very ambitious goal, but this the goal we're working on. One of the things he told me was that he habitually goes in to see the chiropractor every couple months, because one hamstring would get pulled. And so, um, I was like, “Do you know why? What's going on with your training program, does one side feel weaker? Are you stretching?”
We went through and tried to figure out all the things that are standardly, the reasons why the hamstring would be pulled and they weren’t the problem. His hamstring length was fine. You look at his strength overall, relatively equal. And so it begs the question. Why on earth would one hamstring get pulled over another? The same thing with the gentleman I talked about, that was going to lift 700 pounds both hamstrings should have been weighted the same. It's not like one hamstring should be pulling harder than the other. Both feet are on the floor. They should both be doing the same amount of work. But obviously something made one work harder than the other. That is where you get the chronic hamstring pulls so what's causing that.
That is a complicated question or a complicated answer without looking at somebody. Because lots of things can functionally affect your hamstring length, whether they actually measure out the same or not (in standing stretch or laying down stretch they could measure the same) Then functionally, so while you're doing the activity, something's changing. Honestly, because your hamstring is attached to your hip and your knee, it could be anything from your pelvis that's moving differently on one side, to one of your ankles. Then functionally or during the tasks that you're trying to do, whether that's running, whether that's trying to do a deadlift, whether that's trying to squat, the hamstring that was injured was, for whatever reason, being stretched harder than the other side. It's being asked to do more work than the other one.
That’s what I helped my client figure out. He had to go to the chiropractor every three months to get adjusted but because we were able to figure out that there was something going on in both one ankle and one hip that was causing, him when he got into his deadlift position to pull harder on the side that kept pulling he kept having the habitual hamstring pull. So now he doesn't have to deal with that. I guess my big message is that sometimes when you're dealing with the same injury happening over and over and over again, it might not actually be that muscle that’s the issue. The problem might be a joint or muscle surrounding it, and that muscle just happens to be taking the brunt of the stress.
Having somebody come in and help you figure out and dissect what's happening at each level can really help you in your performance because it's not like my client's not trying to just pick up little things off the floor. He's trying to lift heavy weight so any little changes can make a big difference in the overall outcome of what he's able to do. Same thing with running. If he was trying to run a little bit of change in how your ankle hits the ground really affects everything going up.
Having somebody else come in and help you figure that out can make huge changes and help you really save your hamstring and keep you doing the sport you like to do.
If that's the type of service you're looking for, and you're trying to push past the level of your deadlift, or you're trying to get better at squatting, or you're trying to improve your stride length when you're running then send me a direct message or click one of the links below on how to contact me. Let's set up a time to talk to see how I can help you.
I hope you're having a good day. Bye.
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald