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Hamstring Strain Physical Therapy  – Information, Exercises, and More

If you’ve experienced a hamstring strain, then you know all too well what a painful inconvenience it can be.

As one of the most common injuries among athletes, a hamstring strain can quickly put a stop to your daily routine and exercises. 

Luckily for you, hamstring strains are not only easy to treat and care for, they usually heal up pretty quickly.

In this guide, we’ll share all of the information you need to understand: 

  • How your hamstring strain happened  
  • What you can do to treat your hamstring strain; and 
  • How to avoid straining your hamstring in the future.

What is a Hamstring Strain?

A hamstring is a group of tendons that connect the three muscles that run along the backside of your thigh to the bone. The hamstring muscles are the three large muscles that pull on the tendons and give your knee the ability to bend.

These posterior thigh muscles are medically referred to as the:

A hamstring strain is a tear or a pull of one of these three muscles and can be classified into three stages from mild to severe.

  • Grade I hamstring sprain – a mild muscle strain or pull 
  • Grade II hamstring sprain – a partially torn muscle
  • Grade III hamstring sprain – a completely torn muscle

What Causes a Hamstring Strain?

A hamstring strain is most likely to occur during activities that involve sudden stops, starts, or turns such as:

  • Running or sprinting
  • Jumping 
  • Dancing
  • Contact sports
  • Etc.

You’re more likely to suffer a hamstring strain if:

  • You don’t warm up your muscles prior to physical activity.
  • You have weak glutes which cause additional strain on your hamstrings.
  • Your quadriceps (anterior thigh muscles) are tight, thus pulling your pelvis forward and tightening the hamstring.

When the muscles or tendons are stretched beyond their limit a hamstring strain can occur. If you’ve experienced a hamstring strain or injury before, you’re at a higher risk of reinjury.

Preventing hamstring strains can be as simple as doing regular stretching and strengthening exercises, and getting warmed up before engaging in strenuous or explosive physical activity.

Hamstring Strain Symptoms

While most hamstring strains don’t hurt too much, severe strains can be extremely painful and make it difficult or even impossible to walk or stand.

Other symptoms of a hamstring strain include:

  • Sudden and sharp pain during activity
  • Possible popping or snapping feeling in the back of the thigh
  • Pain in the lower glutes and back of the thigh when bending or straightening the leg
  • Bruising and tenderness

A doctor of physical therapy can conduct a physical exam to diagnose a hamstring strain and may ask some questions about how the injury occurred.

Hamstring Strain Treatment

While some hamstring injuries can be recovered from at home, it’s important to see a doctor if you aren’t healing or your symptoms are worsening.

A physical therapist can also advise you on the best hamstring strain rehab for your particular injury and when you might be able to return to normal activities. 

Full recovery could take days, weeks, or even months to heal but working with a physical therapist can help accelerate your hamstring sprain recovery.

Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation

The first step in recovering from a hamstring strain is to apply the R.I.C.E method.

  • Rest your leg: Try not to put any weight on the leg, and if advised by your physical therapist, use crutches until you’re healed.
  • Ice the injury: Apply ice to your hamstring strain every three to four hours for about 20 minutes at a time to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Compression: Wrap an elastic bandage around your leg to keep the swelling down.
  • Elevate your leg: Use a pillow to elevate your leg when you are sitting or lying down.

Painkillers and Anti-inflammatory Medications

For short term relief, your doctor or physical therapist may suggest NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to help relieve the pain and swelling.

These medications have side effects including ulcers, an increased risk of bleeding, and more. They should be used on a temporary basis unless your doctor prescribes otherwise.


Grade I to III hamstring strains can usually be treated at home and under the care of a physical therapist, but more severe injuries may require surgery.

In rare cases, if the ischium ruptures or a significant piece of the ischial bone is pulled away, surgery will be necessary.

Hamstring Strain Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

As soon as you suspect a hamstring sprain you should contact a physical therapist for a full examination. 

A physical therapist will design a treatment plan specific to the nature and severity of your hamstring strain that may include:

  • Manual therapy
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Strengthening exercises; and
  • Functional training

If your injury requires surgical treatment, physical therapy will be necessary for postoperative rehabilitation.

Best Hamstring Strain Exercises

Your hamstring strain rehab should begin as soon as possible after the injury. Your physical therapist will guide you through the best hamstring strain stretches and exercises to help speed your recovery. 

These may include:

  • Hamstring curls
  • Heel digs 
  • Hip extensions
  • Assisted/wall hamstring stretch
  • Single leg balance
  • And more

Depending on the nature of your injury, your physical therapist will develop a customized treatment plan to get you back on your feet and back to your regular activities as soon as possible.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With a Hamstring Strain

Studies show that patients who engage in hamstring strain physical therapy treatments not only recovered sooner but reduced their chances of re-injury.

In Motion O.C. has treated hundreds of patients with a hamstring strain to fully recover — and we can help you too. 

Voted #1 Physical Therapy Clinic in the entire country on Yelp, we are the go-to for your physical therapy needs. 

Check out our patient testimonials and case studies and see for yourself. 

Our certified physical therapists treat all of our patients in our state of the art facility located in Irvine, CA. Visit us today.

*This information about physical therapy for hamstring strain was reviewed by Dr Natalie Thomas, PT, DPT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

In Motion O.C.