A hamstring injury is arguably the most common muscle injury in sport, both professional and recreational. So if you are unfortunate enough to injure your hamstring ( i.e. "do your hammy") playing the sport you love, what can you do to help yourself in the short term?
Keeping in mind that all injuries are different, here are 5 general tips that may help you move in the right direction and shorten your time on the sideline:
1. Don’t stretch it too soon
This is a common mistake, and happens often if you think it is a cramp. The current thought amongst experts is it interferes with the inflammatory process, the development of necessary scar tissue, and therefore the overall recovery of the muscle.
If you think it’s a cramp, fair enough – some stretching will likely help it settle if it is a true cramp. But if you have stretched it and symptoms haven’t changed within minutes, it’s probably not a cramp. And if it is a muscle injury, continuing to stretch it will probably delay your recovery.
2. Get on a bike
This is usually a safe exercise to start with. The hamstrings operate in a comfortable range of motion and load, and it keeps the legs ticking over to limit deconditioning.
Keep in mind though – if it hurts, it might either be too early, or not appropriate for your injury. Every injury is different! But there's no harm in trying this early in the recovery process.
3. Stay functional
Walking, doing household chores, driving, even cycling within your comfort zone is good for recovery. Try to be as close to "normal" as you can.
4. Ice helps pain
Reducing pain without anti-inflammatories is important because it allows more normal movement (less limping, and a more normal walking pattern) without interfering with the healing process. Ice does this very well.
5. Avoid "resting"
What you do within this initial window after your injury can set you up for a successful recovery, or an ongoing niggle. Most people's activity levels go down after injury, so all this missing load needs to be replaced as much as possible.
Sit less, walk more, and think about using the upper body to maintain movement, activity, fitness and strength.
From my perspective:
Hamstring injury is a very common injury and usually benefits from a structured assessment and return to sport plan.
The above points should help navigate the early part of the injury, but the pathways to recovery vary depending on the injury. For example, intramuscular tears are managed differently to hamstring tendinopathy. And to make things more complex, some hamstring pain is not a true muscle injury at all! A diagnosis can really help put you on the right path.
If you have a hamstring injury, give us a call!