Treating the Hamstring Muscles
Although it has become common to refer to the long muscles at the back of the thigh as the hamstring muscles or the hamstrings, they are in fact the the tendons that attach the large muscles at the back of the thigh to bone.
The hamstring muscles themselves are the large muscles that pull on those tendons.
Anatomists refer to these as the posterior thigh muscles, and more specifically as the semimembranosus, the semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris muscles.
These muscles span the thigh, crossing both the hip and the knee. They begin at just below the buttocks and connect by means of their tendons onto the upper parts of the lower leg bones, the tibia and the fibula.
Although the tendons themselves can sometimes be involved in injuries, in this blog we refer to the hamstrings as the large muscle group at the back of the thigh as this is where our clients most frequently encounter tightness, trigger point activity and injury.
Among the major muscles of the human body, the hamstrings play a crucial role in jumping, sprinting, and explosive actions. However, these muscles can be susceptible to injuries, especially if they are weak or fatigued. Therefore, prevention is the best way to avoid such injuries. getting to know the basic anatomy of these muscles is a good place to start.
The hamstring muscle complex includes three muscles. These are the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. Each of these muscles serves a different function. For example, the biceps femoris extends the thigh at the hip and inserts on the lateral side of the fibula.
The semimembranosus muscle is a broad and fusiform (shaped like a spindle) muscle located between the biceps femoris and the semitendinosus. This muscle also offers medial rotation of the hip and lower leg. It is innervated by the tibial division of the sciatic nerve.
The hamstring tendons connect the thigh to the pelvis, allowing the muscles to perform knee flexion and extension. The hamstring muscles can be stretched or torn during activities that involve excessive stress.
If you injure the hamstrings, you may be unable to walk normally. In addition, you may have pain, bruising or swelling in the area behind the thigh. You should always seek suitable professional or medical advice as soon as possible to ascertain the type and extent of the injury.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain may often be prescribed and you can also apply ice to the injured area. You should typically do this for 20 minutes every two to three hours post injury. If you are unable to apply ice, an alternative could be to apply an elasticated tubular bandage. Again, make sure to seek suitable professional or medical advice.
Who is prone to hamstring injuries?
The job of the hamstring muscles is to actively bend the knee and also to help straighten the hip - as in the motion of moving the thigh backward.
The hamstring muscles are not employed to any great degree with normal walking or standing. However, they are extremely important in power activities such as climbing, running and jumping.
Because of this, most people can get by with even reasonably weak hamstrings, whereas athletes and those who are very physically active will depend totally on healthy, and well-conditioned hamstrings.
Any activity that is associated with sudden acceleration when starting or during running can lead to a hamstring injury.
Common athletic activities where hamstring injuries occur include track and field events, football, baseball, soccer, and tennis.
Hamstrings and Trigger Points
The hamstrings are amongst the most overworked muscles in the body.
Whilst it's true that people who are less physically active are much less likely to develop hamstring injuries, they are still prone to developing trigger points in these muscles. This is especially so for those who stand for long periods in their daily work, or as a result of poor quality footwear.
Left untreated, hamstring trigger points may lead not only to injuries in the hamstring themselves, but possibly also to many other painful disorders, including lower back, hip, thigh, and knee pain.
Massage For Hamstrings
Whether you are suffering from an injury or just want to relax, massage for hamstrings can be a great way to treat the pain. The process will help stimulate blood circulation and heal the area. It will also increase flexibility.
While a hamstring injury can be painful, massage therapy is a great way to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery. It can also reduce DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, which typically comes on 24 hours or more after a workout.
For a self-massage, use a foam roller to apply light to moderate pressure. You can either lie on your back, or sit on your knees with your legs stretched out.
Alternatively, you can place a tennis ball or lacrosse ball on the affected area. Then roll the ball in the direction of the arrows. As you roll, you should apply pressure and relax.
You can also use a foam roller to work the connective tissues between the bones and organs. It is a good idea to start with a foam roller on your knees or buttocks; then move to the hamstrings and down to the ankles and lower legs.
If you are having trouble with the self-massage, you may want to consider visiting a massage or manual therapist for professional assistance. In some cases they will be able to assess the severity of the hamstring strain and provide you with a treatment plan, and if not, they should typically be able to refer you on to a suitable professional for diagnosis or treatment.
It's important to stay away from strenuous activity after a hamstring injury. Doing too much too soon will cause the muscles to tighten, which will generally make the situation worse.
Acupuncture For Hamstrings
Using acupuncture to treat hamstrings may help you reduce strain and improve healing. Acupuncture can be very effective when a muscle is strained, but it should typically be used in conjunction with a wider rehabilitation plan.
The hamstring group is made up of many trigger points and motor points. These points are located at both the proximal and distal ends of the muscle. It is important to note that the hamstrings are involved in almost all of the hip motions.
Pain from a hamstring injury will often radiate into the calf and lower leg as well as locally where the pain can be very sharp. While pain is worse during active movement, it is better while resting.
The hamstring group is a very delicate zone of muscle. This makes it difficult to locate specific points. However, the jingjin model of treatment can be very helpful. This model encourages the needling of tight chains of tissue, which may relieve strain.
It is claimed that acupuncture can also be used to reduce spasms in the surrounding muscles. This can be beneficial for patients who suffer from a recurrent hamstring injury.
Acupuncture may also be used to reduce stress associated with the injury. It can reduce the inflammation and increase blood flow to the tendon, which may help healing.
In addition, acupuncture may be used to address spasms in the nearby muscles, such as the glutes and thighs. These spasms can be responsible for the pain.
Acupuncture for hamstrings is a holistic therapy. It can address the underlying imbalances and decrease the stress associated with the injury. This can have a dramatic effect on the healing process.
Stretching For Hamstrings
Performing a hamstring stretch is an excellent way to increase flexibility and strength. This type of stretching can also help reduce pain, improve function, and increase range of motion. It's important to make sure that you're doing the stretch in the right way.
There are many ways to stretch your hamstrings, but the most important thing is to find a position that's comfortable for you. Ideally, you should be able to hold the stretch for at least thirty seconds. It's also important to avoid bouncing or pushing yourself too hard.
Using a strap is a classic stretching method. However, it can be uncomfortable for people with sciatica or pinched nerves. For an alternative, you can try walking ground touch, which is a dynamic stretch.
PNF stretching is another way to stretch your hamstrings. It is commonly thought by therapists to be the most effective method. This technique is a form of rehabilitation that involves contracting against resistance, and it's believed to be more effective than static stretches.
You'll need a partner to perform PNF stretches. You should try to hold the stretch for six to eight seconds per leg, and you should do them after physical activity.
When you're trying to increase your hamstring flexibility, you should try to avoid putting excessive tension on the sciatic nerve. You should also make sure that you're breathing while you're stretching. You should also try to maintain your hamstring stretch for a long time.
If you're pregnant or injured, you may want to do your stretches while standing. This will provide a deeper stretch.
About Stuart Hinds
is a Team NAT lecturer and has been a soft tissue therapist for the Australian Olympic Team since Sydney 2000.
Tess Kirsopp-Cole is Australia's current U18 National 400 meter Champion
This blog is intended to be used for information purposes only and is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or to substitute for a medical diagnosis and/or treatment rendered or prescribed by a physician or competent healthcare professional. This information is designed as educational material, but should not be taken as a recommendation for treatment of any particular person or patient. Always consult your physician if you think you need treatment or if you feel unwell.