Runners, biker, weight lifters — they're all susceptible to hamstring pain. When the pain continues beyond a day or two, the area seems swollen and the muscle seems stiff, then you might be suffering from lateral hamstring tendinopathy, a condition in which your biceps femoris — the lateral muscle in the hamstring — is inflamed at the point where its tendon inserts into the bone at the back of the knee.
If you suspect tendinopathy (sometimes referred to as tendinitis, though that's not technically the correct term), visit your doctor. In most cases, tendinopathy doesn't need significant medical intervention, but the doctor can help you determine the best strategies to recover.
Causes of Tendinopathy
If you're an athlete, you're more likely to experience lateral hamstring tendinopathy. That's because it's particularly common in activities that require strong and repetitive contraction of the hamstrings, such as running, jumping and kicking, as well as sports in which you're frequently accelerating and decelerating, like in soccer.
However, the condition can occur in one movement, too, when a strong force goes through the hamstring tendons. This might be when a soccer player performs a hard, strong kicker or a runner accelerates rapidly, particularly if she hasn't done a proper warm-up.
Dealing With the Pain
Consider talking to your doctor about what he recommends for pain relief and healing when it comes to tendinopathy. However, common recovery tactics include using ice packs on the hamstring, particularly right when the injury occurs. Apply the ice for 10 to 15 minutes every hour for the first 24 to 48 hours. After that time, start applying heat to relax the muscle and help the blood circulate.
Strengthening the Hamstring
Before you return to regular activity, whether it's exercise or sports, strengthen your hamstring and the tendon with a few couple exercises.
1. Static Hamstring Contraction
Sit on a chair or bench and position your leg so your knee is bent to about 45 degrees. While pressing your heel into the floor, tighten the hamstring muscles. Hold for 5 seconds and release, then repeat 10 times, or as many times as you can without pain.
2. Straight Leg Raise
Lie on your ground on your back with the affect leg stretched out straight and the uninjured leg bent. Lift the injured leg until you feel a slight stretch. Hold for 2 seconds, and then lower the leg back to the ground. Repeat 10 times.