Athletes often encounter a hamstring tear or strain at some point in their athletic experience. These injuries can be painful and sometimes slow to heal, but with proper hamstring rehab, the injury can heal to pre-injury strength with little or no lasting negative effects on the muscle. Hamstring rehab can be as simple as icing and heating for less severe injuries, while physical therapy may be necessary for more serious tears. Light exercise will just about always be necessary for complete hamstring rehab, though the particulars of the exercises will vary depending on the sport in which the athlete regularly participates.
Less severe hamstring injuries require less hamstring rehab. All hamstring injuries should initially be treated the same way: icing to reduce swelling and help prevent hematoma — or a blood-filled swollen area of the body. Cryokinetics is also recommended. This involves moving the leg slowly while icing to prevent swelling but to also maintain freedom of movement in the leg. Icing without moving the leg can actually restrict muscle movement, so moving the leg to the point of slight discomfort in the hamstring area can keep the muscles moving freely during the icing period. If icing does not reduce swelling, an anti-inflammatory drug may be used, but such drugs are often associated with slower healing times during hamstring rehab.
Once a hamstring is strained or torn, a significant amount of rest time is needed to allow the muscle to heal. This is a crucial stage in hamstring rehab, as the muscle repairs itself during this stage and any physical activity can sometimes lead to re-injury. Healing time varies from person to person, but it is not uncommon for a rest period to last several weeks. Some hamstring strains or cramps may require a rest time of only a few hours to a few days.
Once the injury has had sufficient time to heal, rehabilitation exercises may begin. Light stretching exercises are the best option to start with, but all stretching should cease if any severe pain is felt in the area of the injury. Exercises should not be begun until stretching is not painful. Once the injured reaches a pain-free point in his or her stretching, resistance exercises should be started to help strengthen the muscle. One should start with smaller amounts of weight and resistance to begin with; overdoing the weights at first can lead to re-injury. Light running should come next, followed by sport-specific exercises after several days to weeks of rehabilitation exercises.