My hamstring popped and it hurts to run…

I felt a pop in my hamstring – it's really sore and it hurts to run. I can still run but it's really sore after and it throbs. What type of injury is this?

1 August 2018

A pop sound can indicate a tear in the muscle or a pulling of the muscle or tendon in that area. A tear would cause continuous pain and difficulty walking, so running would be very difficult. As you’re still able to run this suggests a possible muscle or ligament strain.

Symptoms of muscle or ligament strain include swelling, pain, bruising and being unable to bear weight or use the joint normally.

These do take time and rest to resolve and because it’s difficult to rest this muscle group completely, can take months to heal. 

In the meantime there are things you can do to help.

Most minor sports injuries can be treated using the RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – method:

  • First rest the affected limb
  • Wrap an ice pack or packet of frozen peas in a towel and apply to the painful area as soon as possible to reduce inflammation. You can do this for up to 10 minutes every few hours. Avoid applying the ice pack/bag of peas directly to your skin as this could result in an ice burn
  • Put on a light compression bandage or support, and
  • elevate the painful area if you can to reduce swelling.

If you’re unable to follow these steps immediately don’t worry. If the pain or swelling doesn’t become obvious until the day after the injury occurs, you can still use the RICE method – it’s not too late.

After 48 hours of being injured, it’s important to try to move the damaged joint or muscle gently. This not only helps prevent progressive stiffness and pain, but also encourages the healing process.

Once the pain and swelling has subsided, you can start to increase the amount of activity, but be careful to build up slowly.

You can also use painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help you manage the pain if it’s safe for you to take them. Stronger prescription painkillers are available. If you feel you need them you’ll need to see your GP.

For more information and tips to speed your recovery from sports injuries, please see our article Is it a sprain or a strain? 5 common sport injuries and how to treat them

Finally if the pain doesn’t seem to be getting better, or actually gets worse over time I suggest you see your GP. They’ll be able to make a more informed diagnosis and arrange further investigation such as an X-ray or scan if appropriate. They may also be able to refer you to a physiotherapist as this can aid recovery.

If you’re an AXA Health member you can get specialist support for any problem affecting the muscles, bones or joints, without the need for a GP referral, through our Working Body service. They’ll arrange for you to talk to a physiotherapist who can assess your symptoms, talk to you about what they could mean, and help you plan what to do next. Check your cover online or speak to your claims team for details on how to access this service.

Finally, you can find out more about how to exercise safely in the Exercise and fitness pages of our Wellbeing centre.

Answered by the Health at Hand team.

Useful resources

Guide to common sporting injuries - AXA Health

General self-help tips for pain - AXA Health

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