Ask the expert

Nick

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?

10 May 2021

The hamstring refers to tendons at the back of the thigh that attach the large muscles to the bone; the ’hamstring’ also refers to the muscles in the back of our thighs.

We can injure out hamstring in a number of ways. Most of these injuries will be self-limiting and will improve over time with home treatment, however occasionally we can sustain a more serious injury.

What level of treatment is required and the likely length of time it will take you to fully recover will depend on the severity of your injury. The severity of a hamstring injury may be referred to by ‘grade’ [NHS, 2021]:

  • Grade 1 hamstring injury – a mild muscular strain
  • Grade 2 hamstring injury – a partial tear in the muscle
  • Grade 3 hamstring injury – a complete muscular tear.

Recovery times can vary from within a few days to up to a few months, depending on what grade your injury is [NHS, 2021]. I'm not sure whether you are experiencing any additional symptoms along with the pain, such as any swelling or bruising, but I think, as the ‘popping’ sensation could indicate that the injury is of a higher grade [Healthline, 2021], it would be sensible to get in touch with your GP for a further assessment and guidance on what treatments may be necessary.

In order to give a firm diagnosis, your GP may refer you on for some further investigations, such as an MRI, x-rays or an ultrasound scan to determine the extent of your injury [Healthline, 2021].

Possible causes of a hamstring injury

There are many activities that could cause us to incur a hamstring injury, the most common of which are those that involve the bending of the knee, such as running or jumping [NHS, 2021; Healthline, 2021].

Other risk factors for developing a hamstring injury include repetitive or overuse of the muscles or tendons and insuffiecient stretching and warming up exercises prior to exercising [Healthline, 2021]. The NHS has some useful guidance on strengthening exercises and how to best warm up prior to exercise on the webpages below (NHS, 2021):

Strength and Flex exercise plan - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

How to warm up before exercising - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Home treatment

If you have a mild hamstring strain, there are things you can do at home to help ease down the pain and assist with your recovery. Most minor muscular injuries can be treated using the over the counter painkillers and what's known as the ‘PRICE’ method [NHS, 2021]:

P – Protect – Protect your leg from any further injuries as much as you are able.

R – Rest – Rest the affected limb, especially for the first 48 hours post injury.

I – Ice – Apply an ice pack to the injured muscle to help to reduce inflammation. Please note, do not place ice directly onto the skin as this can cause further skin irritation.

C – Compression – Some people find that using a compression bandage helps to support the muscles during recovery. You should be able to purchase one of these from your local pharmacy

E – Elevation – Whilst at rest elevate your leg, ideally above the level of the heart (when lying down), supported by a foot stool or pillows for example.

After 48 it is beneficial to engage in some gentle stretching exercises to keep the joint mobile and prevent it from becoming ‘stiff’; this could include walking or cycling, for example [NHS, 2021].

Paracetamol would be the painkiller of choice in the first 48 hours post injury, but after this, anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can also be used if you are able to take these medications [NHS Inform, 2021]. If over the counter painkillers are not sufficient in managing your pain then you can speak with your GP about stronger, prescription pain killers. 

If you would like to discuss medications further, please do contact us here at Health at Hand and speak to one of our registered pharmacists. You can contact us directly on 0800 003 004; pharmacists are available 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, 8am-4pm on Saturdays and 8am-12pm on Sundays. If you call outside of these hours one of our nurses will be happy to arrange a call back for you at a convenient time. Alternatively you can submit your query online using our Ask the expert service.

Further support

If your injury does not seem to be improving with the home treatment methods, and you are a member with AXA Heath, 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. The policy team can be contacted on 0800454080; their opening times are 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays.

If your GP has referred you on for any further investigations or specialist input, and you would like to see if you are able to access this through your private medical insurance, then the policy team can discuss this process with you as well.

If you would like to talk any of this through further, please give us a call and speak with one of the nurses at Health at Hand on 0800 003 004; our nurses are available 24/7 to provide medical information.

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, 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.

References

Healthline, 2021. What you need to know about hamstring tear injuries. Available at: Hamstring Tear Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery (healthline.com). (Accessed 10 May 2021)

NHS, 2021. Hamstring injury. Available at: Hamstring injury - NHS (www.nhs.uk). (Accessed 10 May 2021).

NHS, 2021. How to warm up before exercising. Available at: How to warm up before exercising - NHS (www.nhs.uk). (Accessed 10 May 2021).

NHS, 2021. Strength and flex exercise plan. Available at: Strength and Flex exercise plan - NHS (www.nhs.uk). (Accessed 10 May 2021).

NHS Inform, 2021. Should I take pain killers after an injury?. Available at: Should I take painkillers? - Injuries | NHS inform. (Accessed 10 May 2021).

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