A hamstring tear can be a particularly painful injury that can have lasting repercussions if not treated properly. The hamstring muscle is actually a grouping of three muscles that run from the pelvis down to the back of the thigh to the knee. During physical exercise, the hamstring can become strained or even tear, causing a sharp pain in the back of the leg. Swelling may follow, as can bruising or discoloration. To being treating a hamstring tear, start with rest, ice, compression, and elevation — known as the RICE technique — and then consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Some of the treatment for a hamstring tear can be done at home, but other treatment must be done by a doctor or physical therapist. At home, begin by resting the affected leg and applying ice. The ice will help reduce swelling. Do not apply heat at this point, as applying heat may irritate the injury and cause further pain. Applying a compression bandage is also appropriate within the first 24 to 48 hours of the injury, as this, too, will discourage swelling. Be sure not to wrap the bandage too tight, as this may discourage blood circulation and cause discomfort.
When resting the affected leg, it helps to elevate the limb. This, too, prevents swelling, and it also helps discourage the sufferer from using that leg. It is important to rest the leg, especially immediately following the injury, to prevent further injury and promote healing. Stay off the leg, elevate it, and let the body attempt to heal the hamstring tear.
A hamstring tear is essentially a more severe degree of hamstring strain. Much like a hamstring strain, the hamstring tear must be given time to heal. The only way to do so is to avoid physical activity, especially the kind that may have caused the tear in the first place. Explosive force, such as starting to run from a still position, can cause hamstring strains and tears, so such activity must be avoided while healing is occurring. Since the tear happened because the muscles were overextended, it is important to avoid stretching the muscle too far beyond normal levels for days, weeks, or even months after the injury.
More severe hamstring tears may need to be surgically corrected. Such an option is typically only used for very severe tears, in which the entire muscle has been torn. The muscle can be repaired, and some athletes make a full recovery that allows them to return to physical activity shortly thereafter. A loss of mobility, however, may occur, and whether surgery is necessary or not, physical therapy is almost always necessary to fully recuperate from the injury.