Identify a Hamstring Injury

A hamstring injury, which most typically presents as a mild to severe tendinitis, can be one of the more difficult injuries to resume training from. Due to the key role of your hamstrings in producing leg lift as well as stabilizing your ground contact foot during running, they are constantly under stress and virtually never get a break.

Some early symptoms of a pending hamstring injury include slight tenderness to mild pain behind the knees where the hamstring tendons attach (hence tendinitis). There can also be some numbness and pain shooting down the lower leg with every step. Occasionally, a runner won’t get an early warning as speed work such as intervals that involve sudden bursts of speed can cause the hamstrings to contract at a rate beyond which the tendons are able to withstand.

Causes

Any physiotherapist or massage therapist will tell you that the hamstrings of most runners are like solid balls of muscle knots. This tightness and inflexibility places an unusual amount of stress on the hamstring muscles, particularly the tendons where they attach along the back sides of the knees.

Not unlike the causes of most running injuries , here some of the main causes of a hamstring injury for runners:

  • Poor running form and core strength – leaning forward while running puts extra strain on the hamstrings
  • Decreased flexibility due to lack of stretching
  • Weak hamstrings due to lack of strengthening
  • Doing speedwork without warming up properly
  • Sudden increases in mileage without adequate time for recovery

Endurance training and fast running with tight hamstrings also puts extra strain on the hamstring muscle origin at the pelvis. I was shocked to see an MRI of my pelvis which clearly showed ‘drooping’ of the pelvis muscle, due to the continuous tugging of the hamstring during running. In extreme cases, the hamstring can even detach from the pelvis!

Manage a Hamstring Injury

You may be able to run through soreness by monitoring your pain scale (6 out of 10 or lower). If you run through this injury, definitely avoid speed and hills during this time. If there is chronic or acute pain behind your knee or numbness in the lower leg, consider taking some time off from running and refer to a professional therapist for localized treatment.

Some effective strengthening moves that target the hamstrings include:

  • Leg raises
  • Hamstring curls
  • Lunges

You can also do a great job to prevent living through another similar injury by regularly performing self-massage. You can do this by rolling your leg over a cylindrical object which helps to 'strip out' and keep your muscles from bunching up. If you are new to self-massage, this can be very painful so roll lightly by holding yourself up and slowly rolling your leg back and forth.

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