Hamstring Strain is a strain of the muscles on the back of the thigh and often a result of speed training or racing. You will usually feel a distinct tightening or pain in the middle third of the muscle. A hamstring strain can come on suddenly and send you limping off of the track or gradually as the result of cumulative strain from races or workouts.
A slight strain will allow you to continue running, but will recur if you begin speed training too soon. You are best off eliminating speed workouts for a week then resume gradually.
A more severe strain requires dedicated rehab since recurrence is so frequent with this injury. A recent study presented a promising new approach to hamstring rehab with quicker recovery and much lower recurrence. The authors of this study advocate having you work the hamstrings in different directions than they work with running. Trunk strengthening is also a component of this rehab program.
- See Principles of Recovery
- Trunk Strengthening – try the Plank X 4 for a quick, all around program. These are even good enough for women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe who was photographed performing the side position.
- Agility – sidestepping, grapevine, and stepping forward and backward while moving sideways are great drills. In the study, participants performed three sets of one minute.
- Single leg stand windmill touches – while standing on one leg, bend forward at the hip keeping your other leg in a straight line with your back, keep your arms out to the side and rotate your trunk to touch the toes – alternate arms. This exercise is excellent for balance, hamstring strengthening and flexibility. It is presented in greater detail in The Injured Runner – A Balanced Solution.
- Stretching – avoid direct stretching. Instead of standing and bending forward to touch your toes, slide your hips to the right and then bend forward. Next, slide your hips to the left and bend forward for the stretch.
- Massage can helps speed recovery and promote proper healing (massage was not part of the study referenced above).
- Physical therapy treatments such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation may also speed recovery.