A strain is when a muscle becomes overstretched and tears. This painful injury is also called a "pulled muscle."
If you have strained your hamstring, you have pulled one or more of the muscles on the back of your upper leg (thigh).
There are three levels of hamstring strains:
Recovery time depends on the grade of the injury. A minor grade 1 injury can heal in a few days, while a grade 3 injury could take much longer to heal or need surgery.
You can expect swelling, tenderness, and pain after a hamstring strain. Walking may be painful.
To help your hamstring muscle heal, you may need:
Symptoms, such as pain and soreness, may last:
If the injury is very close to the buttock or knee or there is a lot of bruising:
Follow these steps for the first few days or weeks after your injury:
For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
When your pain has decreased enough, you can begin light stretching and light physical activity. Make sure you health care provider knows.
Slowly increase your physical activity, such as walking. Follow the exercises your doctor gave you. As your hamstring heals and gets stronger, you can add more stretches and exercises.
Take care not to push yourself too hard or too fast. A hamstring strain can recur, or your hamstring may tear.
Talk to your doctor before returning to work or any physical activity. Returning to normal activity too early can cause re-injury.
Follow up with your doctor 1 - 2 weeks after your injury. Based on your injury, your doctor may want to see you more than once during the healing process.
Call your doctor if:
Pulled hamstring muscle
Ali K, Leland JM. Hamstring strains and tears in the athlete. Clin Sports Med. 2012 Apr;31(2):263-72.
Vetter CS, Hoch AZ. Hamstrong strain. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 59.
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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