Key Points about Hamstring Tear or Strain

  • Hamstring tears or strains can occur when those muscles are forced to stretch more than they are able.
  • Symptoms of a hamstring injury may include as pain, swelling and bruising behind the thigh.
  • Playing certain sports, having poor flexibility or having muscle weaknesses in the leg can increase your risk of a hamstring injury.
  • Treatment for hamstring injuries generally involves rest, ice, physical therapy and in extreme cases, surgery.
Common related conditions
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury Compartment Syndrome Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Injury Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) Injury Quadricep Tear or Strain

Overview

The hamstrings are the muscles in the back of the thigh. When one or more of these muscles are forced to stretch farther than they are able, a strain or tear can occur.

A hamstring injury can cause symptoms such as pain, swelling and bruising behind the thigh. You may also have felt a “pop” at the time of the injury.

Hamstring injuries are generally treated with rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medicines and physical therapy. Severe hamstring tears, or cases where the muscle has detached from the bone, may require surgery.

Call your doctor if your pain and swelling worsens over time or is so severe that you are unable to walk.

Hamstring tear or strain causes

Any activity or motion that leads the hamstring muscles to overstretch can lead to a hamstring injury.

Hamstring tear or strain risk factors

You may be at an increased risk of a hamstring injury if you:

  • Have limited flexibility in the leg muscles
  • Have muscle weaknesses or imbalances in the leg
  • Play certain sports or engage in physical activities that involve extreme movements or stretching

Hamstring tear or strain symptoms

The main symptom of a hamstring injury is pain behind the thigh, in the affected leg. This pain may be accompanied by:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Inability to walk or bear weight on the affected leg
  • Feeling a “pop” at the time of the injury

Hamstring tear or strain prevention

To prevent hamstring injuries, make sure you worm up adequately and properly before exercising—particularly when the weather is cold.

Hamstring tear or strain diagnosis

Most hamstring injuries do not require a medical diagnosis.

Hamstring tear or strain treatment

Most hamstring injuries do not require medical treatment, and can be treated at home with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medicines.

If you see your doctor for a severe hamstring injury, you may be given a physical therapy regimen to promote healing and strengthen muscles to prevent further injury. In extreme cases, when the muscle is severely torn or has disconnected from the bone, surgery may be required.

When to seek care

Call your doctor if your injury causes severe pain that inhibits your ability to walk, or if your pain worsens over time.

Next Steps

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and help set up a treatment plan that works best for you.