Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Hamstring Muscle Strain

A hamstring muscle strain is an injury to one or more of the muscles at the back of the thigh. The hamstrings consist of three muscles: the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. These muscles are responsible for bending the knee and extending the hip. Strains can range from mild overstretching to partial or complete muscle tears.

Common Symptoms

  • Sudden sharp pain in the back of the thigh
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Muscle weakness or inability to bear weight
  • A popping or snapping sensation at the time of injury
  • Difficulty straightening the leg fully

Cause & Anatomy

  • Overstretching: When the muscle is stretched beyond its limits.
  • Overuse: Repetitive stress or prolonged activity, especially in sports like sprinting, soccer, or basketball.
  • Sudden movements: Quick starts and stops or rapid acceleration.
  • Inadequate warm-up: Insufficient preparation before physical activity.


  • Biceps femoris: Located on the outer side of the thigh, with a long head originating from the ischial tuberosity and a short head from the femur.
  • Semitendinosus: Positioned in the middle of the thigh, originating from the ischial tuberosity.
  • Semimembranosus: Situated on the inner side of the thigh, also originating from the ischial tuberosity.


  • Physical examination: Assessment of pain, swelling, bruising, and range of motion.
  • Imaging tests:
  • Ultrasound: To evaluate soft tissue damage.
  • MRI: To determine the extent and exact location of the strain.

Grading of Hamstring Strains

  • Grade 1: Mild strain with minimal tearing, causing discomfort but allowing continued activity with some pain.
  • Grade 2: Moderate strain with partial tearing, causing significant pain, swelling, and difficulty walking.
  • Grade 3: Severe strain with a complete tear, causing immediate and severe pain, swelling, bruising, and inability to bear weight.


  • Warm-up: Always perform a proper warm-up before engaging in physical activities.
  • Stretching: Regular stretching exercises to maintain flexibility in the hamstring muscles.
  • Strength training: Strengthening exercises for the hamstrings and other supporting muscles.
  • Gradual progression: Increase the intensity and duration of activities gradually to avoid overuse injuries.
  • Proper technique: Use correct techniques during sports and physical activities to reduce the risk of strain.


  • Immediate Care (R.I.C.E.)
  • Rest: Avoid activities that stress the hamstring muscles.
  • Ice: Apply ice packs to the affected area for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours to reduce swelling.
  • Compression: Use an elastic bandage or compression wrap to minimize swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the leg elevated to reduce swelling.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Physical therapy: Exercises to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion. This includes gentle stretching and strengthening exercises as healing progresses.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain and inflammation.


  • Indications for surgery: Rarely needed, typically only in cases of complete muscle rupture or when there is significant tendon involvement.
  • Procedures: Surgical repair of the torn muscle or tendon, followed by a structured rehabilitation program.


  • Phase 1 (Acute phase): Focus on pain management and reducing swelling. Gentle range-of-motion exercises and isometric contractions.
  • Phase 2 (Subacute phase): Gradual reintroduction of strengthening and flexibility exercises. Light weight-bearing activities and progressive resistance exercises.
  • Phase 3 (Rehabilitation phase): Advanced strengthening and stretching exercises, sports-specific drills, and return-to-activity protocols.
  • Phase 4 (Return to sport): Functional training, agility drills, and gradual return to full sports participation under the guidance of a physical therapist.


How long does it take to recover from a hamstring strain?
Recovery time varies depending on the severity of the strain. Mild strains (Grade 1) may heal in a few weeks, while more severe strains (Grade 2 and 3) can take several months to heal completely.

Can I continue exercising with a hamstring strain?
It is important to avoid activities that cause pain or stress the hamstring muscles. Gradual and supervised reintroduction to activity is recommended once the initial healing phase has passed.

Are there any long-term effects of a hamstring strain?
Most people recover fully, but there is a risk of re-injury, especially if the initial strain was severe or if proper rehabilitation is not followed. Persistent weakness or tightness may occur without adequate treatment.

What should I do if I suspect a hamstring strain?
Stop the activity immediately, apply the R.I.C.E. method, and seek medical evaluation to determine the severity of the injury and appropriate treatment.

How can I prevent a hamstring strain from recurring?
Ensure a proper warm-up, maintain flexibility through regular stretching, strengthen the hamstring and supporting muscles, and follow a gradual progression in your activities. Proper technique and listening to your body’s signals are also crucial.

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