One of the most common sport-related injuries is a hamstring pull or strain. The hamstring is a group of four muscles in the back of the thigh. Three of the four hamstring muscles, the semitendinosis, semimembranosis, and the long head of the bicep femoris, cross both the hip and knee joint and are the true hamstring muscles.
At the top, these muscles have a common attachment to the ischial tuberosity (a bone at the bottom of the pelvis), and at the bottom, the tendons of these muscles then attach to the tibia and fibula (bones below the knee). The other hamstring muscle, the short head of the bicep femoris, only crosses the knee joint.
There are two main types of hamstring injuries, and each affects a different part of the hamstring musculature. The first hamstring injury is most common in younger athletes and is caused by a sudden motion, such as an explosive sprint, a jump, or a kick. In this type of injury, the strain occurs at the muscular portion of the hamstring, resulting in pain in the middle of the back of the thigh. Swelling and later bruising may be present in the back of the thigh, and the athlete may limp or utilize crutches to take weight off of the injured leg.
The second type of hamstring injury is usually caused by training errors in activities such as cycling and running. In this case, the hamstring strain occurs at the tendinous insertion on the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis. Tri-athletes, duathletes and marathon runners are common sufferers of this injury, and will complain of pain in the lower buttock region that increases in severity as the foot of the injured leg strikes the ground.
Flexibility and strength training of the hamstring musculature and the nearby muscles surrounding the pelvis and thigh will reduce the risk of injury.
Strengthening the abdominal and gluteus maximus musculature is important in the prevention of a hamstring strain because these muscles aid the hamstrings in decelerating flexion of the pelvis during heel strike.
Flexibility of the hip flexors and low back musculature is also important in the prevention of a hamstring strain injury. Tight hip flexors and low back musculature causes excessive flexion of the pelvis during foot-strike placing an increased strain on the hamstrings. Tightness in these muscles also inhibits strengthening of the gluteus maximus and abdominal musculature.
Chiropractic treatment of injury to the hamstring muscles often consist of:
• Deep tissue procedures to the muscles of the leg to break up scar tissue.
• Adjustments of the low back, hip, knee and foot to restore normal joint mechanics.
• Acupuncture to restore normal muscle tone, decrease pain, and speed healing.
• Implementation of a personalized home strengthening and flexibility program.
• Recommendation of a semi-rigid orthotic for individuals with flat feet or high arches.