People who live an active lifestyle are healthier and live longer than their sedentary counterparts. But the same activities that keep you healthy can also result in injury, especially when they involve repetitive actions that cause inflammation of the tendons.
Hamstring tendonitis is a common complaint of people who do activities that involve running, jumping and kicking. It can also be a result of overstretching the tendons. Once the pain and inflammation have subsided, doing rehabilitative stretching and strengthening exercises will help you get back in the game.
Hamstring Tendonitis Basics
Tendons connect muscle to bone. Hamstring tendonitis occurs when one or more of the tendons become inflamed. This is often due to engaging in activities that involve repetitive running, jumping and kicking. People who exercise often and strenuously may overwork the hamstring, leading to tendonitis. Further, tight hamstring muscles and muscle weakness or imbalance can also cause tendonitis.
Hamstring tendonitis may cause pain either at the top of the hamstring beneath the buttocks or at the bottom of the hamstring behind the knee. The pain can be mild to severe, it may be worse when sitting or gradually worsen during exercise. In addition, it may be accompanied by hamstring weakness and swelling or bruising on the back of the leg.
Your doctor or physical therapist can give you a definitive diagnosis and prescribe a treatment program. Usually this involves resting the muscle, applying ice and compression, and elevating the leg until the inflammation subsides. At that point you can do physical therapy exercises to improve mobility, flexibility and strength.
In the beginning stages of rehabilitation, performing gentle stretches will gradually improve flexibility and range of motion. It's crucial to not go too far too soon, or you may worsen the injury. Static hamstring contraction exercises will also help to gently build strength and stabilization in the injured areas without causing further injury.
Straight Leg Raise: Lie on your back on an exercise mat. Bend one knee and place the foot flat on the floor. Extend the other leg. Slowly lift the straight leg until you feel a slight stretch. Hold for two seconds, then lower the leg. Do 10 repetitions.
Static Hamstring Contraction: Sit in a chair and extend one leg so the knee is at a 45-degree angle. Press your heel into the floor and contract the hamstring muscles as hard as you can without pain. Hold for five seconds and release. Do a total of 10 repetitions.
Hamstring Foam Rolling: Place a foam roller under your hamstring. Position your hands on the floor behind your hips. Lift your hips off the floor to transfer weight onto the foam roller. Slowly roll your hamstring along the foam roller, stopping where you feel tenderness. Roll back and forth over areas of tenderness for 30 to 60 seconds.
Once you have gently stretched and strengthened, you can move on to more intense exercises. Continue to do the first stage exercises along with more advanced exercises. Never do any exercise that causes pain. If you feel pain, go back to the first stage exercises.
Hamstring Bridge: Lie on an exercise mat on your back with your arms extended at your sides. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Press your heels into the floor and lift your buttocks off the mat. Your toes will come up off the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds, tightening your buttocks and strongly contracting your hamstrings. Repeat for 10 reps.
Squats: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend at the knees and hips, lowering your butt back and down as if sitting back in a chair. Keep your shoulders back and down and your chest open. Pause when you get to parallel, then push through your heels to rise back up to standing. Do 10 reps.
Hamstring Eccentric Contraction: Kneel on the floor with your knees and shins hip-distance apart. Secure your ankles under a stable object, or have a partner hold your ankles down. Keeping your core contracted, slowly lean your body forward from the knees. Keep the torso, hips and thighs in one line -- do not bend at the hips. Lean as far as you can, then hold for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat for a total of 10 reps.
Hamstring Band Stretch: Lie on your back on an exercise mat. Raise your leg off the mat with the knee slightly bent. Loop a resistance band around the sole of the extended leg foot. Gently pull the leg in toward your chest as far as it will comfortably go. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat five times.