How to Heal a Hamstring Strain Fast

Many active individuals experience hamstring injuries and want to know how to heal a hamstring strain fast. The good news is that a minor muscle strain can heal in days with proper treatment, though more severe injuries can take much longer to heal. 

Basic Hamstring Anatomy

The three muscles of the hamstring, which are healthy and do not show signs of a hamstring strain.

The hamstring muscles are a group of three muscles that run along the back of the thigh. They start at the bottom of the pelvis and go across the knee to the lower leg. These muscles are the semitendinosus muscle, the semimbranosus muscle, and the biceps femoris. They allow you to bend your knee and extend your leg. You can injure these muscles if you overstretch or overload them. 

A hamstring strain is when you pull, partially tear, or completely tear your hamstring muscles. They’re frustrating injuries since they tend to happen when you’re doing something you enjoy. Unfortunately, previous hamstring strain injuries (HSIs) increase the likelihood of future HSIs.

Anyone can strain their hamstring, but they are most common in people who do activities where they sprint or do sudden starts and stops. HSIs are the most common non-contact injury in professional sports. They represent 37 percent of all muscle traumas.

Hamstring injuries are common in people who:

  • Play soccer, football, basketball, and tennis 
  • Are runners
  • Do activities that require extreme stretching, such as dancers
  • Have previous hamstring injuries 
  • Have tired, tight, or weak muscles 
  • Have muscular imbalances, such as overly built quadriceps 

Symptoms of a Hamstring Strain

Hamstring injuries can cause symptoms in the back of the thigh, including:

A person holding their hamstring, which is red with pain due to a hamstring strain.
  • Sudden, sharp pain 
  • A sensation of a hamstring pop 
  • A tearing feeling 
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising 

Severe hamstring strains can make putting full weight on your leg difficult.

There are three levels of hamstring strains:

  • A grade 1 is a mild strain or pull, also called a pulled hamstring  
  • A grade 2 HSI is a partial tear
  • A grade 3 strain is a complete tear

How to Heal a Pulled Hamstring in 2 Days

Hamstring strain recovery time depends on the grade of your hamstring injury. Grade one injuries, often called pulled hamstrings, may heal in a few days. Hamstring tear recovery, especially if grade three, can take much longer. Some grade two and three tears need surgery. 

See your sports medicine specialist if you cannot put weight on your leg or take more than a handful of steps without excessive pain. Tell them if you have numbness or tingling or your pain or swelling suddenly increases. 

To diagnose a hamstring strain, your specialist will examine you and pinpoint your pain’s location and severity. You will need to move your leg so they can determine how badly your muscles are hurt and whether ligaments or tendons are also injured. 

If the pulled muscle in your thigh seems severe, they may take an X-ray to check for fractured bones. They might also use an ultrasound or MRI to see if you tore your muscles and tendons. Severe hamstring injuries can cause muscle tears or separations from the pelvis or shin bone. In this case, your orthopedic surgeon can repair and reattach the muscle.

Pulled Hamstring Recovery Time vs Torn Hamstring Recovery Time 

Pulled hamstrings often heal in days or weeks. Recovery time for torn hamstrings is longer. 

To recover from a mild hamstring strain, you can use RICE therapy. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. These steps help relieve the pain and swelling caused by hamstring injuries. 

Runner performing a hamstring stretch for injury prevention while outdoors.

To heal a hamstring strain fast, you should:

  • Rest the injury and allow it to heal
  • Apply wrapped ice packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day
  • Use a compression bandage or sleeve to reduce swelling
  • Elevate your leg above your heart
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications as directed, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen
  • Use crutches or a cane if you cannot put weight on your leg

Stay healthy by sitting less and moving more. This will help you avoid injuries and heal quickly. 

How to Heal a Hamstring Strain Fast

Once the initial pain and swelling decrease, you can begin to be more active. Slowly increase activities like walking. Do gentle physical therapy stretching and strengthening exercises as recommended. 

Remember, if you return to physical activity before your hamstring strain heals completely, you could reinjure it. Hamstring strain recovery time can vary, so don’t push yourself too hard or fast. 

Best Hamstring Exercises

Some of the best exercises for hamstrings include:

  • Simple hamstring stretch
  • Standing forward bend
  • Hurdler hamstring stretch 
  • Prone hamstring curls
  • Straight leg raises

See a physical therapist for help targeting your hamstrings. Exercising moderately but regularly is key to preventing injuries like hamstring strains. If your job is physically demanding, hamstring strain exercises can help you avoid issues. 

If you have a hamstring injury and want to speak with a sports medicine specialist about how to heal a hamstring strain fast, contact us or comment below.

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