man stretching on the gym floor

How To Speed Up Pulled Hamstring Recovery Time

man stretching on the gym floor

Hamstring pulls, or strains, are generally mild injuries characterized by pain when moving the leg. They are especially prevalent in sports injuries, typically from activities requiring sprinting with fast stops and starts, such as basketball, lacrosse, football, baseball, and track and field. Although hamstring pulls can typically be treated at home, the healing period can frequently take weeks or months.

The potential of reinjuring the hamstring before complete recovery is very high as individuals can push the tendons too quickly. Ensuring that you have taken the proper recovery time seriously is significant in regaining your mobility. This article will take you through the entire process of injuring, healing, and helping to strengthen the hamstring so you do not reinjure the tendons.

Understanding the Anatomy of the Hamstring

Your hamstring consists of tendons attaching the thigh, and three hamstring muscles, on the back of your leg. While sitting or standing typically will not directly engage your hamstrings, they are critical for crouching, bending, climbing stairs, and performing squats. These muscles are involved in running, stopping, and quickly changing direction.

Hamstring injuries frequently occur on the tendon or muscle and can happen due to overexertion. Sometimes this results from under conditioning, low strength, or an inadequate warmup before activity. Typically, a pull or strain is a minor injury that signals that you have overworked the muscle or tendon but you have not torn the muscle or tendon.

Causes of a Pulled Hamstring

Hamstring injuries are prevalent sports injuries typically caused by an explosive movement that could be running, suddenly changing direction, or powerful jumping. A hamstring pull typically does not result in bruising, but a more severe hamstring tear may present bruising and swelling. While a hamstring pull will not necessarily affect muscle strength, the pain associated with the injury can impact your mobility.

A person running downhill a mountain field.

There are three grades of hamstring injuries:

  • Grade 1 – A pull or strain
  • Grade 2 – Partial tear
  • Grade 3 – Complete tear

Every injury will take a different amount of time and treatment to heal. While a pull or strain may be treated at home, they can take a few days of rest or weeks, depending on the severity of the injury and how you attempt to heal the damage. A complete hamstring tear requires surgery and extensive physical therapy and generally takes months to heal.

Initial Treatment and Rest

As soon as you know that you have an injury to the hamstring, it is crucial not to make it worse. You can begin with the RICE treatment. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Try to reduce or eliminate hamstring movement, use ice or cooling for short periods, an ace bandage for light compression (ensuring not to reduce circulation), and elevating your leg may help to reduce swelling in the area.

woman resting on her bed

While recovering from the injury, it is vital to keep moving but not to put too much strain on the injury. Continue to move the area, walking and stretching if possible. Avoid those activities if there is too much pain, but continue gentle movements.

Pain Management

Pain levels are among the most challenging factors of a hamstring strain recovery. Everybody can experience different levels of pain. Many people use cold and hot therapies, baths with Epsom salts, and salves to help alleviate mild discomfort. You can use medications such as Ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which help reduce pain levels.

woman bandaging a man's foot

In addition to those, you can also use compression, either as ace bandages or wraps, to help relieve your pain.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Physical therapy is one of the most beneficial approaches to recovering from a pulled or torn hamstring. PT can help to get the muscles and tendons back to their original shape and even help make them stronger to prevent future injury. Physical therapy can provide recommended exercises throughout the healing process and monitor your progress to ensure your activities are safe and effective.

man getting a back massage from a therapist

Restoring Range of Motion

Remember to maintain or improve your range of motion when emphasizing complete recovery and reducing your pulled hamstring recovery time. Following an injury, the muscles tend to shrink or atrophy and can become tighter, restricting mobility.

Work closely with your physical therapist to identify stretching and flexibility exercises that will not further aggravate your injury.

woman stretching her shoulders

Begin with easy stretching and gradually increase your flexibility. If you do not maintain your standard range of motion, you will more likely reinjure your hamstring after resuming normal activities.

Strengthening the Hamstring

A pulled hamstring recovery is only successful for those who can avoid reinjuring the same muscle. Targeting the hamstring muscles is vital to make them stronger than before the injury. You can complete several exercises to help regain and improve your hamstring strength, but it is crucial to do it early enough.

woman doing stretches on the floor

You can start back into running and other exercises as you feel ready, but it is important to ease back into your training plan. Listen to your body during this time and be aware of new pain that could signal an injury.

Returning to Activities

Once you have been cleared to return to your normal activities, it is essential to return to them gradually. Use proper warmup and stretching before reaching full speed and intensity. Utilize safe practices and go easy at first to help test your healing.

people running a marathon

Your initial return to activities should be gentle to ensure you do not reinjure the hamstring. You are still trying to allow your hamstring time to heal completely, and this can help prevent future hamstring injuries.

Rest and Sleep

Your body is healing when you sleep. Proper sleep can reduce physical and mental stress, allowing your body to function while healing.

Diet and Nutrition

Diet and nutrition are some of the most challenging portions of healing from a hamstring injury.1 Suppose you have to experience an extended downtime before your return to activity. In that case, you should seriously evaluate your nutrition plan to ensure that you are getting adequate nutrition to help advance your healing.

fruits on a plate

During this time, keeping your body fueled with nutritious foods with fruits and vegetables is crucial. Nutrients are vital to helping your body recover quickly. High amounts of protein and foods rich in vitamins A and C are essential for your healing. Also, dehydration can delay your progress, so drink plenty of water.

Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamins and supplements are frequently used during recovery to give your body everything it needs to heal. Vitamins A and C and additional protein are the primary ingredients to help recover from an injury. Protein is the essential building block of your muscles, allowing muscles to rebuild and strengthen. Vitamin A is a natural anti-inflammatory, while Vitamin C helps rebuild collagen, vital to the strength of your tendons.

herbs and pills in cups and bowls

However, working with a healthcare professional before you take additional vitamins or supplements is also essential. Supplements and vitamins can interact with medications and specific medical conditions, or you may overload your body with vitamins.

Last Words

If you have recently suffered from a hamstring injury, careful attention to your healing process can help to reduce the hamstring strain recovery time and help to avoid future damage. Following the recommended recovery steps can get you back to the activities that you love without further pain and discomfort. Of course, if you doubt the ideal measures for your recovery, do not hesitate to consult a physical therapist or a medical professional.

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[1] Papadopoulou SK. - Rehabilitation Nutrition for Injury Recovery of Athletes: The Role of Macronutrient Intake.;