The hamstring muscle in the back of the thigh is one of the biggest and most powerful individual muscles in the body. It provides explosive power during athletic events--running and jumping--and is also a key muscle in day-to-day activities like walking, jogging or riding a bicycle. When the muscle is injured it can be painful and it can also take a long time to heal, depending on the severity of the injury.
This is the least severe of all the hamstring injuries. A strained hamstring usually occurs when you are using that muscle more often than usual. For example, you may have mowed your lawn for the first time during the season when the grass is somewhat overgrown. Pushing that lawnmower has put a strain on your hamstring and you feel a twinge or a slight burning sensation. Stop what you're doing and ice your hamstring to reduce the swelling and discomfort. A hamstring strain probably calls for a day or two of rest, followed by an elastic bandage wrap before resuming activity.
Another injury that comes from overuse or pushing a muscle that is not in shape is the pull. When you pull the muscle--usually caused by a sudden movement while in the midst of another activity--you feel immediate pain and your activity is now limited. You must go from an active position to a resting position and the treatment is signficant: ice, rest and painkillers (Advil, for example), if needed. A hamstring pull will leave some people on the sidelines for anywhere between three days and two weeks.
This is one of the most painful injuries that an athlete can endure and it almost always happens in the middle of a sporting event. This is normally an injury that occurs when an athlete has pushed himself past his limits. It is a frequent track and field injury and it also happens quite a bit on the football field. Sprinters must go full out for 100 meters or 200 meters and if the hamstring muscles are not properly relaxed or loose before the event, they can tear. The same injury happens on the football field when a receiver, running back or defensive back goes into a full sprint and suddenly changes directions. The higher up in the muscle that the tear occurs, the more painful the injury. A full tear of the hamstring muscle can require surgery and a three-month rehab. It may just require rest and one month of rehab. A partial tear will require ice, rest and rehab that can last anywhere from two weeks to two months.
The keys to avoiding hamstring injury are proper stretching before you use the muscle, proper hydration and eating healthy foods. Take the time to stretch the muscle before you participate in an athletic event or do a heavy household chore. Also, drink a bottle of water every hour when you are doing an athletic activity to keep your muscles loose. Also, eating well--fruits and vegetables--and avoiding fatty foods, will help the overall health of your large muscles.
A major hamstring injury has been described as a shocking type of pain that comes on suddenly. When an individual suffers a major pull or tear, the muscle tends to roll up like a window shade that has been allowed to roll up explosively. The individual may collapse from the pain in agony. Ice is always the first treatment and rest is also normally prescribed. Additionally, once an athlete has suffered a major pull or tear and has recovered, it is likely that the individual will suffer a similar injury in the future.