Hamstring Strain

What is a Hamstring Strain?

A hamstring strain also known as pulled hamstring is a strain or tear to the tendon or muscle bellies at the back of the thigh. The hamstring group consists of three muscles called the biceps femoris, the semitendonosis and the semimembranosis. The muscle that is most commonly injured is the biceps femoris. A muscle strain is classified by the severity of the tear. A grade 1 strain is a mild strain of a small amount of muscle fibres, a grade 2 is a partial tear of the muscle tissue involving more muscle fibres, and a grade 3 tear is a complete muscle tear involving all of the muscle fibers. Your will require a range of hamstring injury exercises for these fibers to heal.

Hamstring strain, Grade 1, 2 & 3


The main function of the hamstring muscle is to bend or flex your knee, as well as decelerate your knee from straightening during tasks such as running and sprinting. Hamstring injuries often occur during sudden, explosive movements, such as sprinting, lunging or jumping. If the tendons or muscles tear, you may feel or hear a pop, followed immediately by pain at the back of the thigh region.

Depending on how severe the hamstring strain is, you may have pain on walking, and the muscle will often spasm and feel tighter at the back of the thigh. There may be swelling, bruising and tenderness over the site of the muscle strain and also down the thigh towards the knee.

Recovery time

The recovery time for a grade 1 hamstring strain will take 1-2 weeks, a grade 2 strain will likely take 4-5 weeks, and a complete rupture can take 3 months. Initially for the first week the patient should use the RICE protocol which is for Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.

Rest – avoid any unwanted stress on the hamstring as this may impact on the tissue healing. Active rest such as gentle walking and controlled exercises are allowed.

Ice – apply ice to your hamstring for about 20 minutes on a slightly stretched position, two to three times a day (up to 5 times a day for the first 72 hours)

Compression – a compression bandage or skins can help reduce pain and swelling

Elevation – keep your leg slightly raised while sitting and icing to help reduce swelling

Treatment and Exercises for Hamstring Strain

After the initial 72 hours and the pain has subsided you can start hamstring exercises and rehabilitation with your physiotherapist. It is important to begin moving the leg in a controlled fashion to decrease the possibility of scar tissue forming.

Hamstring exercises in the early stages will involve gentle range of motion and activation of the hamstring with no load or resistance. You will begin a gentle walking and/or cycling program along with these hamstring exercises. As you improve your physiotherapist will gradually progress your exercises and add resistance to the leg. These hamstring exercises are needed for your hamstring to gain full strength, and to prevent re-injuring the hamstring in the future.

Hamstring injury exercises given to you by your physiotherapist may include lunges, deadlifts, bridging, butt flicks, heel catches, and a combination of all of the above. One hamstring exercise that is used commonly, as well as for other lower limb rehab is a squat, with variations of this. Along with these hamstring exercises your physiotherapist will tailor a return to running program. Do not return to sport until your physiotherapists as allowed you to, as you may risk re-injuring the hamstring.

Need Help?

To book an initial consultation here at Kensington Physio and Sports Medicine Practice for your hamstring injury with one of our expert physiotherapists, please call us on 02076030040 or email us at info@kenphysio.com.