Hamstring tears are among the most common types of sports injuries in the United States, accounting for millions of injuries and doctor visits every year. Of course, you don’t have to be an athlete to tear your hamstring. Tears also become more common as we age, and our hamstring muscles and tendons become weaker and less flexible.
As a leading orthopedic surgeon in Houston, Texas, Joshua Harris, MD, treats hamstring tears and related injuries using a patient-centered approach focused on restoring pain-free mobility, helping each patient reach their unique activity goals. In this post, he reviews the four most common signs of a hamstring injury so that you can get treatment as soon as possible.
Your hamstrings comprise three muscles:
Hamstring tears that affect all three muscles are called complete tears, while tears that affect one or two are referred to as partial tears.
The hamstring muscles extend from under your buttocks down to just below your knee. Hamstring muscles join the bones via the hamstring tendons. Together, the muscles and tendons help your knees flex and bend, promoting mobility and balance.
Most hamstring tears happen when the muscles are overstretched and overloaded. Lots of factors make hamstring tears more likely, including:
Tears are also more common among athletes who put a lot of repetitive strain on their legs, like dancers, sprinters, and those who play football, basketball, or soccer.
Learning to recognize the most common signs of a hamstring tear is crucial for making sure you seek medical help right away to prevent the injury from getting worse. These are the four most common signs to look for.
Hamstring tears are typically accompanied by sharp, acute pain in the back of the thigh or underneath the buttocks near the muscle attachment. Often, this pain is preceded by a “snapping” or “popping” sound at the moment of injury.
Hamstring tears cause significant tissue damage, so it’s not surprising most people also experience some swelling and bruising. Swelling can become apparent within a few hours of the injury, while it might take a couple of days for bruises to appear.
Your hamstrings are responsible for the movements of your hips and knees when you walk, run, squat, or bend. Most people who have a torn hamstring find their leg feels weak during any of these movements.
In addition to weakness when moving or bending your leg, hamstring tears can make it difficult or impossible to bear weight on the leg. Many people report their leg feels like it will buckle or give way when attempting to put weight on it. Weight-bearing can also cause significant pain.
Hamstring tear treatment depends on several factors, including the extent of the tear and the physical condition and goals of the patient. Partial and full hamstring tears won’t heal on their own, which means that surgery is the recommended route to repairing the tear and restoring normal function in nearly every instance.
Dr. Harris is skilled in endoscopic surgeries using small incisions and traditional “open” surgery with large incisions to provide more access to the injury site. The approach he uses depends on the extent of the tear and other factors. After surgery, you’ll undergo a period of physical therapy to restore function and strength in your leg.
If you think you’ve torn your hamstring or you have symptoms of a hamstring injury, call or book an appointment online and let Dr. Harris develop a treatment program aimed at helping you get back on your feet.