The Pulled Hamstring – A Tough Rehab

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  • Male athlete getting hamstring checked out.

The Pulled Hamstring – A Tough Rehab

I was talking with a parent yesterday about his daughter’s pulled quad muscle.  It has been a nagging injury throughout the season and probably what is needed is rest.  But, that isn’t happening right now with half the season yet to play.

The parent mentioned how this has been such a tough injury to recover from.  I agreed, but I added at least it wasn’t a pulled hamstring.  I feel hamstrings are so tough to rehab and if this had happened to her, she probably wouldn’t be playing right now.

As I’ve gotten older, I have pulled my hamstring a few times.  To the point, where within a week the back side of my leg was all black and blue.  Charlie, my muscle-movement specialist, has told me that it probably isn’t a weakness in my hamstring, but overcompensation because my calves aren’t firing as efficiently during the sprint.

Consequently, I’ve been really diligent to try and help my athletes not get hamstring pulls.  Plus, the work we do to prevent that also helps improve their speed AND reduce the chances of ACL injuries to occur.

That being said, hamstring injuries are going to happen.  I’ve consulted with my fair share of athletic trainers and physical therapists throughout the years and have come up with a recipe for rehabbing these injuries.  

This recipe isn’t an immediate cure.  In fact, it could still take a while to recover, but it will start you down that path at a much faster pace.  

Here is that recipe for a pulled hamstring:

  • Upon injuring the hamstring, you want to start icing it and elevate it.  Wrapping it can help minimize the bleeding, but ice is imperative for the first 24 to 48 hours.  Usually, you want to ice 10-15 minutes, then rest an hour, then repeat as often as you can.

  • After that initial 48 hours, new research has suggested that you can forego the ice for heat.  At this point, ice should be used after working out or rehab.  Heat should now be done up to 20 minutes at the most.  Definitely, before rehab or activity, but every few hours should be fine.

  • Some type of massage work could also be utilized, either with a professional massage therapist or a foam roller.  This should be done not to full pain, but gradual pressure along with heat will help stimulate blood flow throughout this area and help the repairing process faster.

  • 3 or 4 days after the injury has occurred you want to start doing light stretching and strengthening with the muscle.  It should be pain free movements and increased gradually as you are getting healthier.

Even when the hamstring starts feeling better, you should probably continue this further for another week.  Gradually, you can start testing it with varying intensities of sprints.  

In my experience, if everything is done correctly and depending on the severity of the hamstring pull, you might be looking at a minimum of 4 weeks recovery until you are back to full speed.  Could be longer.  I’ve seen sport seasons eliminated because of a pulled hamstring.

What remedies do you use for a pulled hamstring?  Put your comments in the box below.  Sometimes I can’t keep up with the new research and would love to hear what you are doing.

Photo courtesy of Steven Pisano on Flickr:

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