Any injury can take a huge toll on your exercise routine. That’s why it’s so important to know what injuries feel like and how to prevent them, otherwise your weight loss journey could be at risk. Today we’ll talk about hamstring injuries
It can happen to anyone, but it’s most common when participating in activities that involve jumping, running, or sudden movements. Hamstring strains strike suddenly and can be quite painful. If you see someone with a hamstring injury that person has a road of recovery ahead of them and they won’t be able to exercise for a while. You have to be careful; otherwise you’ll find your weight loss put on hold as you heal.
Your hamstring isn’t just one muscle, but a string of three muscles down the back of your thigh. These muscles work together to help you bend your knee and extend your leg. When one or more of these muscles get overloaded, it can cause a pulled muscle, a partial tear, or in the worst-case scenario, a complete tear away from the bone.
What causes a hamstring injury, how do you know it’s your hamstring that hurts, and what are the best treatments? Keep reading to find out.
Who’s at Risk
It sounds contradictory, but a hamstring strain occurs when the muscle lengthens at the same time it contracts. This happens when the muscle is overloaded or suddenly stretched beyond its normal limits. Hence, the importance of warming up and stretching properly, if you skip this part of exercise and you’re more likely to get injured because your muscles are tight. That’s why we are so insistent on warm-up and cool-down exercises at boot camp, we know how painful and devastating it can be to get injured while trying to get fit.
A hamstring strain is also possible if there’s a strength imbalance in the connecting muscles of your glutes or quadriceps. When these muscles are weak, your hamstrings may be overworked and fatigued, putting them at greater risk for injury. Hamstring injury is also more likely when you’re a teenager (your bones and muscles are still developing) and when you engage in intense activity when you’re out of shape. If you haven’t worked out in a while, don’t be afraid to go halfway on effort at your first boot camp. We actually encourage it until your body is ready for more intense things.
What It Feels Like
When the hamstring is injured, you may experience sudden pain and a snapping sensation. You’ll either fall over or hobble on your good leg. The pain may be mild to severe along the back of your thigh and lower bottom and it may hurt to walk, straighten the leg, or bend over. The area may be tender to the touch, swollen, or bruised. In other words, it will hurt. A lot.
The time it takes a hamstring strain to heal depends on the severity of the injury. Mild cases can feel better in a few days with self-care that includes rest, ice, compression, elevation, and over-the-counter pain medications.
More severe cases may take weeks to fully heal. In the instance of a complete tear, surgery may be needed to reattach the muscles. As you recover, it’s important to avoid any activity that causes pain, as this prolongs healing. So take it easy until your injured leg feels just as strong as your other leg. Overdoing it too soon can re-injure the muscle and cause permanent damage.
As you gain strength, your physician may recommend physical therapy or gentle stretches and strengthening exercises that slowly repair the damaged muscle. In time and with proper care, most people fully recover from a hamstring injury. Don’t be afraid to take your time and ensure that your leg fully heals before returning to working out. We don’t just want to help you lose weight, we want to make sure you live a healthy and pain-free life.
Prevention, the First Step
While there’s no way to completely avoid every injury, there are ways to lessen your chances of a hamstring injury. First, if you ever feel tightness on the back of your legs, stop what you’re doing! Tight muscles should be considered a warning sign that injury is imminent.
Since warm, flexible muscles are less likely to get strained, spend 5 to 10 minutes doing light exercises and stretches to warm up your muscles before exercise. Plan to do longer warm-ups in cold weather. Even when you’re not working out (which you should try to do every day, but we know that’s not always the case) you should still stretch. When you let your muscles become more flexible you lessen your chance of several injuries because your body will be able to handle sudden shifts much better than tight muscles would.
On the days you do weight training, be sure to include exercises that work your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes, so there’s a balance of strength. If you make sure all the muscles in that area are strong and capable, you’ll lessen your chance of an injury, since the muscles will be working together instead of being imbalanced in strength.
Make sure to always warm up before working out, and stretch regularly. You don’t want to overdue it and end up unable to walk comfortably for a long period of time. Take it slow.