Numerous conditions can cause lateral hamstring tendinopathy. The term tendinopathy describes an injury to a tendon. Tendons consists of a fibrous material, connect muscle to bone and help move joints. There are two principle types of tendinopathy: tendinitis, or inflammation of a tendon, and tendinosis, or tendon tissue degeneration. The lateral hamstring is a common location for tendinopathy.
The hamstring muscle group is located on the posterior aspect or the back of the upper leg. Three muscles compose the hamstring muscle group: semitendinosis, semimembranosus and biceps femoris. Semitendinosis and semimembranosus are located on the medial or inside aspect of the back of the thigh, while biceps femories -- a muscle that possesses two heads, a short head and a long head -- is located on the lateral or outside aspect of the back of the thigh. The tendon of the biceps femoris muscle attaches to the head of the fibula -- the smaller of the two long bones in the lower leg.
Lateral hamstring tendinopathy is a common sports-related injury, especially among runners. The most common cause of tendinopathy is overuse associated with the muscle-tendon unit, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Over time, excessive strain on the biceps femoris tendon causes mictrotears -- tiny tears in the tendon itself -- that develop and accumulate, eventually causing pain and tendon degeneration. Although sports participation is one of the most common causes of overuse injuries, physical labor and certain kinds of housework can also cause lateral hamstring tendinopathy.
Symptoms associated with a lateral hamstring tendinopathy depend on the cause and severity of the tendinopathy. According to SportsInjuryClinic.net, common signs and symptoms associated with tendinopathy of the biceps femoris tendon include pain when the knee is flexed or bent against resistance, tenderness and swelling where the biceps femoris tendon inserts into the fibula and stiffness in the affected area following exercise. A person with lateral hamstring tendinopathy may also experience decreased knee joint active range of motion.
Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing lateral hamstring tendinopathy. Common risk factors include lower extremity muscle imbalances, decreased lower body flexibility, being obese or overweight, advanced age and possessing certain alignment abnormalities of the leg, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Females more commonly experience lateral hamstring tendinopathy than males. Participating in sports that require a significant amount of running may also increase a person's chances of developing this condition.
Most lateral hamstring tendinopathies respond well to conservative care methods, such as rest, ice, activity modification and gentle stretching exercises. A person with lateral hamstring tendinopathy should seek the assistance of a sports medicine professional who can provide treatment and rehabilitation recommendations. Certain manual medicine techniques, such as instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, trigger point therapy and massage therapy may be helpful for treating this condition. Cold laser therapy and certain kinesio taping techniques can also be beneficial.