Hamstring Injury Recovery Time & Exercises
The hamstrings are one of the most important muscle groups for runners and other athletes. Located in the back of the upper leg, these muscles play a major role in activities like running, jumping, and climbing. Unfortunately, hamstring injuries are extremely common for athletes, and most people who live a physically active lifestyle will experience one at some point in their lives. You can be relatively sure you’re dealing with a hamstring injury if you heard a “pop” while exercising followed by pain. The hamstring area may even start to bruise or swell soon after.
Athletes depend on their hamstrings, making these injuries a major hindrance to training. We’ve created this basic guide to hamstring injuries to give you an idea of how long this might injury might take you out of the game and what you can do to start recovering.
There are three degrees of hamstring injuries. The severity of your injury will be a determining factor in how long it takes for you to recover.
The three grades of hamstring injury include:
- Grade 1: The lightest injury, usually only a muscle pull or strain. Recovery typically only takes a few days.
- Grade 2: This grade includes partial muscle tears. You’ll likely need to take a couple of weeks off from training while it recovers.
- Grade 3: A complete muscle tear. This is the most severe degree of hamstring injuries and usually requires several months to heal.
If you’re an avid athlete and you believe you have a hamstring injury you should schedule an appointment with a sports medicine physician. It is extremely important you take the time off your hamstrings need to make a complete recovery. Resuming your training before the area has a chance to properly heal greatly increases your risk of a reoccurring injury.
You may not be able to resume your normal training routine, but that does not mean you can’t still take an active role in your recovery. In fact, completely abstaining from exercise during your recovery could shrink and weaken your hamstring muscles. Starting a gentle but consistent exercise routine can help keep the muscles strong and stimulate their recovery.
Here are some hamstring injury exercises that can help your recovery:
- Standing Hamstring Stretch: Place the heel of your injured leg on a low stool. Keep the leg straight as you lean forward until you feel the back of your thigh stretch. Hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds and then repeat 3 or 4 times.
- Hamstring Curl: Lie on your stomach with a pillow elevating your stomach. Lift up your injured knee and then lower it. Repeat this motion 10 to 12 times. You should feel a mild stretch, but not serious pain.
- Hamstring Wall Stretch: Find a doorway and lie on your back. Lift and place the injured leg against the doorway and slide it upwards to straighten the knee. When the knee is fully stretched out, hold the pose for at least 1 minute and repeat the exercise 3 times.
- Standing-Leg Balance: On a flat surface, stand with your arms lifted by your sides to make a “T” shape. Lift your good leg off the ground so that the injured leg is supporting you. Try to hold this pose for 30 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and then repeat 7 times. If you start to feel unsteady or pain in the leg, stop and try a different exercise.
If you experience serious pain from any of these exercises then you should stop right away. Schedule an appointment with a sports medicine physician for an assessment of your injury and recommendations for some different exercises. Remember, putting too much strain on your injury too soon could make the damage worse. Be patient and make sure you are giving your muscles the time they need to heal.