Each hamstring is made of three muscles. These muscles, which are on the back of your upper legs, help you lift your legs and bend your knees. A hamstring tear can quickly put you on the sidelines and force you to miss out on your favorite activities.
Hamstring injuries are some of the most common that athletes face, but anyone can suffer a hamstring injury. Orthopedic surgeon Joshua Harris, MD, specializes in treating hamstring tears at his Houston practice. In this blog, he discusses treatment options for hamstring tears.
Understanding hamstring tears
Hamstring tears range in severity, from Grade 1 to Grade 3:
A Grade 1 tear, also known as a hamstring strain, can occur when your hamstring muscles are overstretched but don’t actually tear. Hamstring strains can be painful, but the symptoms usually disappear within a few days.
If you suffer a partial muscle tear in your hamstring, it’s considered a Grade 2 tear. Partial tears are often more painful than strains, and your leg may feel weak or you may have a limp when you walk.
Grade 3 tears are the most severe and the most painful. With Grade 3 hamstring tears, the muscle rips completely or separates from your leg bone. When this injury occurs, it’s common to hear a popping sound.
Severe hamstring tears are usually extremely painful, and they normally cause significant swelling on the back of the leg. Inability to bear weight on the affected leg is common with Grade 3 tears.
Dr. Harris will diagnose the severity of your hamstring injury with a physical exam. He’ll examine your leg for bruising and swelling and ask you about your symptoms. Depending on your injury, he might recommend a diagnostic ultrasound, MRI, or X-ray to fully assess your condition.
Nonsurgical treatments for hamstring tears
If you have a mild to moderate hamstring tear, Dr. Harris may begin your treatment by recommending conservative protocols, such as the RICE method. RICE stands for the following:
- Rest: Rest your leg
- Ice: Ice your leg for 20 minutes at a time
- Compression: Use a compression bandage
- Elevation: Elevate your leg
Following the RICE protocol can help relieve pain, minimize swelling, and help small tears heal faster. Dr. Harris may also prescribe oral pain relievers for you to take as your muscles heal.
After a few weeks, Dr. Harris might recommend physical therapy to slowly reintroduce activity to your leg. Physical therapy can strengthen your muscles and help prevent injuries going forward.
Surgical treatments for hamstring tears
While Dr. Harris often recommends conservative treatments to fix hamstring tears, there are cases where surgery may be needed to repair your hamstring. Complete hamstring tears or mild to moderate tears that don’t improve with nonsurgical treatments may require surgery.
Dr. Harris is highly trained in the best surgical techniques to treat hamstring tears. Depending on your condition, he may recommend open or endoscopic (minimally invasive) surgery.
Treating your hamstring tear promptly and effectively is the best way to help your body heal and reduce your risk of injury and pain in the future. If you have a hamstring injury and need excellent care, book an appointment online or over the phone with Joshua D. Harris, MD, today.