by Dr.Timothy J. Maggs
It never fails. Just when you’re getting into some type of shape, or just prior to the race you’ve been training hard for, that nagging sharp pain in the back of your thigh makes an unexpected visit. Nooooooooo!!
For those who’ve experienced a pulled hamstring muscle, you know that this is, once again, the beginning of a long process which wasn’t part of the plan. This now means your plans must be reconsidered, as this injury will not allow you to run and train the way you wanted.
This muscle originates at the base of the buttocks region by attaching to the ischial tuberosity ( those bones that hurt after riding a bike for the first time). They extend down to attach just behind the knee on both the inside and outside of the thigh bone. Basically, it’s the entire back of your thigh. The muscle’s function is to flex (bend) the knee. With each running stride, the knee bends as the foot pushes off the ground, and while the other foot is striking the ground, and while the other foot is striking the ground, the airborne foot approximates the buttocks as the hamstring muscle shortens. This action is a primary component of the running stride, and the health of a runner’s hamstring will certainly play a major role in stride length, stride strength, flexibility and recovery ability.
Why Does It Pull?
As with any muscle, an overload is usually the reason for a pull. With the hamstring, a pull is much more common because the muscle usually isn’t given the proper conditioning (preparation and recovery) to allow it to continue functioning at peak level without some eventual breakdown. Sportsmedicine doctors who treat runners have always seen a much greater incidence of injuries in the muscles in back of the leg (hamstring and calf muscles). These muscles are on a continual shortening program as the years go by. Their function is contractive in nature, and there is never an opportunity to them to be stre-e-e-e-ectched out unless you are one of the few runners who is sympathetic to the need for stretching and maintenance of your muscles.
Most runners don’t do the necessary warm-up or recovery exercises until the first one, two or seven injuries. I’ve always said, “Youth hides a lot of sins”. AS we get older, though, nature encourages all of us to become more considerate of our bodies. If running with no maintenance care is the formula you train by, you probably can expect, if you haven’t seen it already, at least one tight calf and/or hamstring that could eventually become a pulled muscle.
Very often, a pulled hamstring mimics a scatic nerve problem. The difference between the two is sometimes difficult to distinguish between, and the correct diagnosis is imperative for rapid recovery. A pulled hamstring will usually hurt in a more localized manner. The classic sights of pulls are usually in the belly of the muscle or closer to the buttocks, where the tendon attaches to the bone. Pains or tightness usually increase as you begin to exercise. Pulled muscles won’t let you continue. Scaitic pains usually hurt at times other than exercise, and have a radiating type of pain. Sciatic pain may also follow the path of the nerve. The treatments are significantly different, so be sure to know prior to any treatment exactly what you’re suffering with.
If the hamstring pull is always on the same side, you might want to have a biomechanical exam because your probably suffering with short leg syndrome. I’d suggest a good sports chiropractor. Otherwise, here are the things you need to do for yourself. First of all. the hamstring goes through a progressive tightening over the years as you run. If you’re not countering that with a good stretch program, you’ll slowly tighten up, and eventually you won’t be able to bend forward and touch your knees let alone your toes. Stretch Everyday!! There are no shortcuts. You’ve got to pay the dues, and this part of the fee to be able to continue running pain free. If you find stretching is creating pain, stop for a period because your muscles are not yet prepared for stretching. After caring for them with the following suggestions, you’ll be able to begin stretching at some point. Make your stretches slow, gradual and static. No bouncing and no pain.
Secondly, you have to massage the hamstrings (as well as other muscles) everyday to keep proper blood flow, oxygen and nutrition going to these dense muscles. If you don’t this, waste products (trigger points) accumulate in the muscle, and the muscle fully lubricated, fed, oxygenated and lengthened. MASSAGE EVERYDAY!! If you can this on your own, great. Most of us either can’t or won’t, therefore, every runner should consider getting The Stick®. You might think you can get by without one, but eventually you’ll realize what you’re missing. Your muscles need this attention to give them the ability to stay healthy.
Finally, heat treatments in between your running will help to provide increased circulation to the areas of tightness or injury. Use heat about 15-20 minutes a couple times per day after the acute phase is over, and you’ll find the muscle loosens considerably because of much needed increased circulation and finds it’s way back to health much quicker.
And if all these suggestions don’t do the job, keep an eye out for Team Stick Nutritional Supplements™ which are available under Team Stick Supplements in this area. They’ll definitely give any injury the necessary support to heal. For the time being, however, let’s hope none of us are injured, and this article would be the perfect gift to give a friend.