Chiropractic Continuing Education

Chiropractic for Hamstring Injuries

            Hamstring strains and injuries are a common issue seen by chiropractors across the country. According to the National Library of Medicine, hamstring strains are among the most commonly occurring injuries in sports accounting for 12 – 16% of all athletic injuries with a reinjury rate of 22 – 34%. While hamstring strains tend to heal on their own time, chiropractic treatment can help speed up the recovery process.


Hamstring Strains


            Hamstring strains are very common, and occur when a patient pulls one or more of the three hamstring muscles running behind the thigh. These injuries often happen in athletes, especially in runners.


Hamstring Strain Symptoms:


  • Bruising
  • Pain during physical activities with a snapping or popping feeling
  • Swelling
  • Pain in the back of the thigh when bending the knee, walking, or straightening the leg
  • Trouble walking


There are multiple causes and/or risk factors for hamstring injuries as these group of muscles are a huge part of everyday life. The hamstring muscles make it possible for one to extend the leg and bend the knee, and various physical activities and sports can cause a hamstring strain.


Hamstring Strain Causes:


  • Poor flexibility – stretching and warming up muscles before physical activities is essential so that the hamstring muscles (and others) can handle the force of the activity.
  • Playing sports – sports where running is required such as football, baseball, soccer, dancing, or track and field all have a higher risk of hamstring strains.
  • Prior hamstring injury – just like with most other injuries, if there is a patient who has had an injury previously, they are at a higher risk to get the same injuries again.
  • Sudden movements putting strain on the hamstring muscle
  • Quadriceps imbalance
Additionally, there are three different types of hamstring strains, and although most are mild to moderate, there are some rare cases that are more severe.


Types of Hamstring Strains:


  • Grade I (mild) – pain while sitting, walking, or climbing stairs with minimal swelling, but usually no loss of flexibility or strength. Over stretching without tearing the tension or muscle fibers.
  • Grade II (moderate) – pain is more immediate and slight reduction in flexibility and strength in the muscle. In this variation of the injury, there is a partial tear in the hamstring muscles, and the patient will most likely be limping while walking, pain when contracting the muscle, and muscles are sore to the touch. There also may be bruising involved at this stage.
  • Grade III (severe) – critical tear or total rupture. At this stage, the injury may require surgical restore. There is usually a sharp pain in the back of the thigh along with a substantial bruise appearing several days after the injury.
There is more of a risk of hamstring injury when the patient doesn’t warm up before exercising, have tight quadriceps, have weak glutes, or have injured the hamstring before. Performing regular stretches can help to reduce these risks. Fortunately, chiropractic treatment is appropriate for reducing risk of hamstring injury, solely by the nature of the treatment.


Chiropractic Treatment for Hamstring Strains

            The main goal of chiropractic treatment for hamstring strains and injuries is to increase the patients’ range of motion and decrease pain. The sports medicine industry is massive, and patients are pulled in a million directions for treatment options. Sports chiropractic treatment has numerous benefits for hamstring strains and injuries.


Chiropractic Benefits for Hamstring Strains/Injuries:


  • Gentle, non-invasive treatment approach
  • Alleviate immediate pain while creating the proper whole healing in the long-term
  • Promotes the body’s own ability to heal
Usual chiropractic protocol for a hamstring strain is to remove the pressure that is holding down the nerves surrounding the injured area. As chiropractors, we need to break up scarred tissue promoting blood flow and healing. Deep tissue manipulation that encourage soft-tissue motion to put attention on free up flexibility and motion within the spine and joints are best when treating hamstring strain.


Chiropractic adjustments such as the Graston technique should be done on the affected region, pelvis, hip, spine, and knee. The soft-tissue treatment is used to break up scar tissue, and E-Stim or ultrasound is sometimes used to encourage healing at the hamstring. Once range of motion is re-established, be sure to implement a strengthening program with dynamic stretching and light weights. Many patients make the mistake of under-estimating a hamstring injury, so it is vital to give proper advice with treatment and realistic recovery time. Chiropractic providers should give patients exercises to perform at home as well as treatments in the office to reduce recovery time such as RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) protocol which has been shown to be effective in reducing swelling and pain.



Chiropractic & Hamstring Strains


            Research indicates that adding sports chiropractic as an injury-prevention routine is shown to reduce lower-limb injury. These types of injuries tend to be overlooked by patients and providers alike, not to mention difficult to treat with conventional medicine due to the high risk of re-injury. Although many hamstring strains tend to be mild to moderate, chiropractic treatment can provide an alternative and potentially more effective treatment option for those suffering from a hamstring strain.