Sometimes, a mild injury heals on its own, but you can expedite that healing with a few simple interventions. A pulled hamstring describes a strained or torn muscle in the back of your thigh. This type of injury can vary in severity from a minor tearing of your muscle tissue to a complete muscle rupture. How you rehabilitate from a pulled hamstring depends on the degree of muscle damage you experienced.
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Pulled Hamstring Basics
Your hamstring muscle group includes the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus muscles. Together, these muscles help you bend your knee joint and extend your hip joint backward.
If you have minor tears in one or more of your hamstrings, your injury will be classified as a Grade 1 strain. Grade 2 strains involve partial tears in your affected muscles, while Grade 3 strains involve tears that severely or completely separate the tissues in your affected muscles. People prone to pulled hamstrings include sprinters, hurdlers and those involved in sports such as basketball or football, which require you to make abrupt starts and stops.
Grade 1 Rehab Guidelines
If you have a Grade 1 hamstring pull, the first couple of days of your rehabilitation will typically include rest, cold therapy, use of a compression bandage and exercises called knee extensions. After three days, switch from cold therapy to heat therapy and start performing exercises that include standing hamstring curls and motionless, or static, hamstring stretches. Massage can also be beneficial in providing relief to affected tissues.
Once your recovery is pain-free, you can add light jogging to your program and gradually return to full activity.
Grade 2 Rehab Guidelines
If you have a Grade 2 hamstring pull, the first three days of your recovery includes extensive rest, application of a ice and use of a compression bandage. The next four days or so will include exercises such as pain-free static stretches, knee extensions and reverse straight leg raises, as well as massage and strengthening exercises for your groin and hip muscles.
As your rehab progresses, you will start heat therapy before exercising, use light weights to perform leg curls, perform exercises called bridges and start cycling or swimming. Toward the end of your recovery, you can start more rigorous leg exercises and begin a gradual return to your normal activities.
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Grade 3 Rehab Guidelines
If you have a Grade 3 hamstring pull, you'll need to rest, ice, compress and elevate your injured thigh for a full week and use crutches to get around. In the second week of your recovery, start heat treatments and perform exercises that include static stretches, static contractions, mobility exercises for your hamstrings and strengthening exercises for your groin and hip.
For the next two weeks, continue to perform hamstring exercises and start cycling or swimming. During the remainder of your recovery, you will increase the intensity of your exercises and start gradually returning to your everyday activity routine.
Consult your doctor before you begin any rehabilitation program for a pulled hamstring and follow the specific rehabilitation program outlined by your doctor and physical therapist. Your healing process may be faster, or slower, than detailed above. Progress depends on your compliance and your body's healing capacity.