Hamstring Strain or Injury
A hamstring injury is a common injury to happen to runners. You know it when you feel it as it is a very sharp specific pain in the back of the leg above the knee and below the buttocks. Often you get them during high periods of running exertion such as sprinting or racing uphill. This injury is one of those "Awwweeeee darn it" injuries because you know you will be down from running for some time.
There are three degrees or grades to this injury ranging from 1st degree, a mild strain or pull, to 2nd degree a partial tear of the muscle, to 3rd degree a complete tearing of the muscle. Depending on the degree will depend on the healing time. Expect 2 weeks for a mild strain and possibly a few months for a complete tear.
You can tell if you have a hamstring injury fairly easily by the location of the pain along the back of the leg, but I have one sure test.
Put a tightly laced show on the injured leg. Now try kicking off that with the other foot while in a standing position.
You will immediately feel the hamstring cry out stop! Or just bend yourself forward while you legs are locked, again you will feel the muscle cry out stop! If you find the pain is very sever or is high up on the leg near the buttocks you may have a partial detachment of the muscle and you should see your doctor.
1. Excessive exertion such as sprinting or racing uphill.
2. Unbalanced muscle strength in the leg known as quad dominance. For example you only develop the quadriceps muscles along the front of your legs from squatting and biking and do not equally counter develop the hamstrings.
3. Improper stretching and warm-up or stretching too deep before warming up the muscles. Stretching should only be done to a muscle that is warmed up first.
4. Increasing your training program at too fast a rate to allow muscle development. For example you run 10 miles on your first spring run after winter.
Start by taking a complete week off any activity. The R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) treatment should be utilized, although I personally do not find the compression to be of any assistance for this injury. If you are feeling pain, ice it for 20 minutes 3 times a day until the pain is gone. Do not just go back to running after the pain has subsided. I have tried this before and it just does not work. Healing this injury is kind of like putting scotch tape between two sheets of paper. If you pull to hard and soon it just rips off the tape and you are back to square one. Instead a slow and deliberate reintroduction of exercise should occur. Start with a one mile walk. Rest a day. Then maybe a two mile walk. Rest a day. Take a light one mile jog on flat road. Rest a day and you get the idea. Slow incremental increases with rest in between.
Don't forget to eat adequate amounts of protein too. Protein is needed to repair and build muscles. It's easy to get on a salad kick once in awhile and forget about protein.
Strengthening your hamstring is considered the best protection against this injury. If you do not already have a muscle development plan for your hamstrings it's not too late to start (and you should for prevention). Begin working out this muscle with revere leg curls. You don't need heavy waits to properly develop this muscle. Setup a schedule of a few sets a couple of times a week is good. Always stretch this muscle out but only after it has been warmed up. Never bounce when you stretch, this can cause a tear or strain. If you feel the slightest twinge of pain in your hamstring while running, stop and rest, it's not worth injuring or re-injuring.
Here is a great article from runner's world on Hamstring injury
Please note the above notes are only suggestions from a life long runner, please consult your doctor for professional advise on any injury that you experience.