Pulled hamstring muscle; Sprain - hamstring
A strain is when a muscle becomes overstretched and tears. This painful injury is also called a "pulled muscle."
If you have strained your hamstring, you have pulled one or more of the muscles on the back of your upper leg (thigh).
There are 3 levels of hamstring strains:
Recovery time depends on the grade of the injury. A minor grade 1 injury can heal in a few days, while a grade 3 injury could take much longer to heal or need surgery. You may need surgery if the tear is near your buttock and the tendon is retracted.
You can expect swelling, tenderness, and pain after a hamstring strain. Walking may be painful.
To help your hamstring muscle heal, you may need:
Symptoms, such as pain and soreness, may last:
If the injury is very close to the buttock or knee or there is a lot of bruising:
Follow these steps for the first few days or weeks after your injury:
For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
When your pain has decreased enough, you can begin light stretching and light physical activity. Make sure your provider knows.
Slowly increase your physical activity, such as walking. Follow the exercises your provider gave you. As your hamstring heals and gets stronger, you can add more stretches and exercises.
Take care not to push yourself too hard or too fast. A hamstring strain can recur, or your hamstring may tear.
Talk to your provider before returning to work or any physical activity. Returning to normal activity too early can cause reinjury.
Follow up with your provider 1 to 2 weeks after your injury. Based on your injury, your provider may want to see you more than once during the healing process.
Call your provider if:
Cianca J, Mimbella P. Hamstring strain. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 68.
Hammond KE, Kneer LM. Hamstring injuries. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee, Drez, & Miller's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 86.
Reider B, Davies GJ, Provencher MT. Muscle strains about the hip and thigh. In: Reider B, Davies GJ, Provencher MT, eds. Orthopaedic Rehabilitation of the Athlete. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 24.
Switzer JA, Bovard RS, Quinn RH. Wilderness orthopedics. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 22.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 6/8/2022
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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