It is not uncommon for a person to injure their hamstring. As well as being quite painful it can also prevent the afflicted person from being able to pursue their usual activities and motion. The hamstrings themselves are the tendons which attach the large muscle at the back of the thigh to the bone.

What is the Hamstring?

The hamstring is also referenced as the three different muscles adjacent to this larger thigh muscle – the bicep femoris, the semimembranosus and the semitendinosus.

Without the hamstring a person would not be able bend their knee or move it behind their body.

Risk of Injury

If a person plays sports then they are much more likely to incur a hamstring injury than someone who leads a more sedentary lifestyle. If the sport in question involves a lot of fast movement, such as sprinting or on-court team sports, then the risk of injury to this area is even higher. When a person stands still or walks, the hamstring muscles are not used much at all and they mostly come into action when running, jumping and climbing are required.

The worst thing that can happen with a hamstring is that the three muscles completely tear and this could take several months to heal properly. However this is the worst case scenario and a normal strain to the hamstring will be back to normal in less than a day.

Overuse of the Hamstring

Overuse of the hamstring is the most common reason that the muscle will become damaged.

Expecting too much of the body and pushing past usual capabilities can easily lead to an injury in any part of the body and the hamstring is particularly susceptible to this.

When to Visit the Doctor

If you feel like you have damaged your hamstring and it does not go back to normal function by the end of the day then it may be worthwhile getting checked out by your doctor.

This will usually just involve a physical examination but could potentially lead to an X-ray or an MRI, this all of course depends on how seriously you have hurt yourself. Surgical treatment might be necessary if the tendon has separated from the bone and the rehabilitation process following this could be quite excessive.

On the other side of the scale, non-surgical treatment of less drastic injuries will simply involve elevating the hamstring and icing it as it rests. If surgery is resorted to then full function can be expected again after three to six months.

Strengthening the Hamstrings

It is possible to strengthen the hamstrings, and in doing so you will be helping to prevent them from injury. In fact, there are so many different hamstring exercises to choose from that you're sure to be able to keep things interesting by choosing something different as often as you like. 

The following are among the best exercises for strengthening the hamstrings:

Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a fantastic all over body workout, but are especially good for building up the hamstrings. In order to get the maximum benefit for the hamstrings, it helps if you position your buttocks a little lower than you usually would, and bring your shoulders a little further forward of the bar. 

If you struggle with the slight change in setup at first, then be sure to drop down to a lower weight than you might usually use for a deadlift so that you can perfect your form first.

Lying Leg Curls

Lying leg curls require the use of the relevant gym equipment, and it would be difficult to replicate this movement at home without any equipment. However, if you do have access to a gym then be sure to include it in your workouts regularly. 

Find a weight that you are comfortable at, and aim to do a high amount of repetitions, as opposed to doing low reps with a higher weight. This will help you to build up the endurance of your hamstrings, and the strength will surely follow in good time.

Living an Active Life

Leading an active life is one of the best ways to protect your all-round health, and to protect yourself against muscle injuries. When you are activating all of your muscle groups frequently in varied ways, then your muscles will be much better prepared for any unusually strenuous activity, and different types of movement.

An active lifestyle is something you can slowly build up to if you find this concept difficult. You can start by trying to walk more in your usual day to day, and then work up to trying different types of exercise. As you get more used to doing so, you will eventually find certain activities that you really enjoy doing, and then this concept will become natural and fun!

References

1) http://hollandboneandjoint.com/blog/hamstring-strains

2) http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hamstring-injury/Pages/Introduction.aspx