Injuries can be said to be an extremely common occurrence in the life of a sportsperson. With the everyday wear and tear of the muscles and tendons, it is not surprising that athletes tend to develop fatigue and consequently weak muscles. Among the many injuries that athletes and sportspersons face, strained hamstring, affecting the thighs, can be said to be one of the most common one.
Strained Hamstring: An Overview
Before understanding what strained hamstring is all about and should you stretch a strained hamstring, it is important to get the basic idea about the anatomical aspects of the hamstring group of muscles. Situated at the back of the upper portion of the leg, the hamstring group of muscles refer to a group of three individual muscles, viz., semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris, with the top of these muscles being joined to the pelvis and the lower part of these muscles being attached to the bone of the lower leg just below the knee joint.
The stretching or tearing away of the hamstring group of muscles or tendons as a result of some pulling action gives rise to strained hamstring or hamstring injury.
Should you Stretch a Strained Hamstring?
It is something very important to consider that whether or not to stretch an already strained hamstring muscle. Yes, a strained hamstring must be stretched to gain back the elasticity of the muscle. However, it is equally important to take it very slow when you try to stretch the strained hamstring as hurrying up with this can lead to re-injury in the strained muscle. Immediately after an injury one must follow the RICE protocol i.e., Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation to get some relief. After 2-3 days of rest, one must slowly start stretching the hamstring muscle so that it is gradually brought back to work without putting strain. While doing the stretching, one must keep in mind that the stretch should be mild and must not cause any additional pain in the muscle.
Exercises for Strained Hamstring
Stretching and strengthening of the hamstring muscle after a strain to it must be done to restore the elasticity and flexibility, and to gain back the strength of the muscle. However, one must make sure to do it slowly as excess pressure on the strained muscle can worsen the condition. There are certain exercises that one could resort for achieving relief from pulled hamstring-
- Stretching Exercises to Treat Strained Hamstring: These exercises may be done when the hamstring muscles begin to feel a bit stronger after the injury. One of the ways in which hamstring stretching exercise can be done is by sitting and extending the legs and leaning forward slightly to feel the strain on the back side of the legs and thighs. This position needs to be held for a few seconds before relaxing and repeating the stretch as needed. The same exercise can also be done putting the injured leg on the wall.
- Strengthening Exercise for Strained Hamstring: It is important to strengthen the hamstring muscles post injury as stronger muscles can also prevent the recurrence of strained hamstring. For the strengthening exercises, it is important to wear additional ankle weights of about 5 lbs or less. In this exercise, people have to first lie on the stomach and extend the legs and then pull the ankles towards the buttocks. This exercise needs to be repeated for about 10 to 15 times.
- Static Back Pullover Exercises for Strained Hamstring: In this exercise, one needs to lie down on the back with the legs resting on a chair or block and the major joints aligned. The arms need to be extended above the chest with the palms clasped and the elbows locked. The hands, then, need to be lowered above the head without contracting the muscles of the abdomen. It is advisable to perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions for this exercise.
- Hip Crossover Stretch after Strained Hamstring: In this exercise, one has to lie down on the floor with one of the feet flat on the floor with the knee pointing up while the ankle of the other leg resting on the grounded knee. The arms should be extended to the shoulder level with the palm facing downwards and then the ankle and knee junction needs to be rotated so that it touches the ground. Hold the body in this position for about a minute before repeating the same with the other side.
- Pelvic Tilt Exercise post Strained Hamstring: In this exercise, one has to lie down on the back with the knees pointing upwards and the hands stretched out to the shoulder level with open palms. The hips, then, need to be rolled back and forward to flatten and arch the back with each movement. This exercise needs to be repeated 10 times.
- Static Extension Position Exercise for Strained Hamstring: In this exercise, it is essential to align the major joints by bending on all fours with the hands being shoulder width apart and the fingers being spread out. The body now needs to be moved forward in such a way so that the hips are forward to the knees and the shoulders are above the wrists. Holding this position, the back should be arched and the shoulder blades need to come together. Hold this position for about 2 minutes before relaxing.