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Hamstring Injury Treatment and Hamstring Stretching Exercises
by Brad Walker

The hamstring muscles are susceptible to tears, strains, and other common sporting injuries. Let’s start by having a quick look at the muscles that make up the hamstrings and where exactly they're located. We'll then move on to some common causes of injury and finally look at some preventative measures and treatments.

The hamstrings, located at the back of the upper leg, are actually a group of three separate muscles. The top of these muscles are attached to the lower part of the pelvis, and the bottom of the hamstring muscles are attached to the lower leg bone just below the knee joint. The technical or anatomical names for the three hamstring muscles are semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris.

The image shows the muscles located at the rear of the upper right leg. The three specific hamstring muscles can be seen in the image, by looking for the anatomical names located half way down the right hand side.

Common Causes of Hamstring Injuries

Now that we know exactly what and where the hamstrings are, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes for hamstring injury. By far the most common cause of hamstring injuries originates from an imbalance between the quadriceps muscles (located at the front of the upper leg) and the hamstring muscles. The quadriceps muscles are a very large, strong group of muscles that help to extend the leg. These muscles can become so strong that they overpower the hamstrings' thus putting massive tension on the hamstring muscles, Combine strong quadriceps with weak hamstrings and you have a hamstring injury waiting to happen.

Other factors that contribute to hamstring injuries are a lack of flexibility and poor strength of the hamstring muscles. Also, when the hamstrings become fatigued or tired they are more susceptible to injuries.

The best preventative measures involve a consistent program of both stretching and strengthening exercises. Increased flexibility will contribute greatly to the ability of the hamstring muscles to resist strains and injury.

Two Effective and Safe Hamstring Stretches

Hamstring Exercise #1: In a stretch exercise, simply kneel down on one knee and place your other leg straight out in front with your heal on the ground, Keep your back straight, make sure your toes are pointing straight up and gently reach toward your toes with one hand. Use your other arm for balance. Hold this stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds and repeat at least 2 to 3 times.

Hamstring Exercise #2: Stand with one foot raised onto a chair, fence railing, or similar object. Keep your raised leg slightly bent, with your toes on the edge of the chair. Let your heal drop off the edge of the chair. Keep your back straight and gently move your chest towards your raised leg. Hold this stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds and repeat at least 2 to 3 times.

Warming up correctly will also greatly reduce the likelihood of a hamstring injury, and don't just stretch before you exercise. Make sure you stretch both before and after any physical activity. Dedicate time to your entire flexibility. This will not only help you avoid injury, it will also make you a better athlete.

If you do injure your hamstrings, it's important to apply correct first aid principles immediately. The RICER regime explains the correct treatment for all muscle strain injuries.

RICER stands for:
(R) Rest
(I)   Ice
(C) Compression
(E) Elevation
(R) Referral (from a qualified sports doctor or physiotherapist)

So, as soon as an injury occurs, rest the injured limb, apply ice to the affected area, apply a compression bandage, and elevate the limb if possible. This treatment needs to continue for at least 48 to 72 hours. This is the most critical time for the injured area and correct treatment now can mean the difference between an annoying injury or a permanent, re-occurring, debilitating injury.

After the first 72 hours of injury, obtain a referral from a qualified professional and start a comprehensive rehabilitation program. This should include a great deal of strength and stretching exercises, as well as other rehabilitation activities such as massage and ultra-sound.

Copyright @ 1998-2007 The Stretching Institute™
Article by Brad Walker. Brad is a leading stretching and sports injury consultant with nearly 20 years experience in the health and fitness industry. For more free articles on stretching, flexibility, and sports injury, subscribe to the Stretching and Sports Injury Newsletter.