Hamstring Injury: Nutrition for Fast Recovery
What are the hamstrings?
The word “Hamstring” relates to both tendons and muscle:
The Hamstring tendons are strong bands of tissue situated at the back of the thighs that attach the large thigh muscle to the bone
The commonly known Hamstrings refers to a group of 3 muscles that run along the back of the thigh, from the hip to just below the knee
What causes a hamstring injury?
The most common hamstring injury is defined as a stretch-type injury to one (or more) of the hamstring muscles and is generally caused by extensive hip flexion with an extended knee.
It is thought that most hamstring injuries occur during sprinting due to excessive muscle strain caused by eccentric contraction during the late swing phase of the running gait cycle”
What are the risk factors for the development of a hamstring injury?
There are many potential risk factors when considering the potential for one to occur. These risks include:
Being a sprinter – most injuries occur during speed running
Previous hamstring injury – especially if a runner has returned to training BEFORE the injury has healed completely
Tired muscles or weak muscles – either the hamstrings themselves or potentially as the result of weak/lazy glutes
Poor flexibility of hamstrings and overstriding – may lead to over stretching during speed running
Age – risk of injury increases with age
Inadequate warm-up before exercise and lack of stretching following exercise are known to be contributing factors
Lower back pain and sacroiliac-joint dysfunction – the sacroiliac joint being the joint that links the pelvis and lower spine
Running posture – forward leaning runners are more at risk of developing a hamstring injury
Foot strike patterns – heal strikers rather than forefoot runners are thought to be at increased risk
Stress and anxiety – have also been shown to increase the risk of any running injury occurring
A pro-inflammatory diet – may influence the development of a hamstring injury due to chronic low-grade inflammation
A focus on exercise and training considerations to help prevent and speed-up recovery from a hamstring injury
Prevention is always better than cure with all aspects of health and sporting injuries are no less important when considering good health. There are many ways to potentially limit the development of a hamstring injury including:
- Warm up and warm/cool down and stretch REGULALRY!!
- Foam rolling REGULARLY
- Strength training – increasing muscle strength is known to reduce the risk of injury occurring
- Observe for potential signs and symptoms (S/S) of a hamstring injury developing and then taking action IMMEDIATELY
The presenting S/S will depend on the severity of the injury but may include:
- Sudden and sharp pain in the back of the thigh
- Possibly a popping or tearing sensation
- Swelling and tenderness over the affected area
- Bruising or change in skin colour along the back of the leg
- Muscle weakness
- Inability to weight bear
Defining Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy
This injury is thought to be is quite rare besides a hamstring muscle injury and the typical symptoms differ significantly from a hamstring muscle injury.
The principal symptoms for this type of injury include:
- Gradual onset and increase of pain in the back of the upper thigh
- The pain can be felt deep into the buttock area
- Pain can extend down the back of the thigh to the knee
- Increasing pain when sitting for any length of time. For example: working at a desk and long distance driving
What can you do to manage a hamstring injury?
- On experiencing an injury it is very important to STOP RUNNING and seek professional support and advice. For example, from a physiotherapist
- RICE Therapy: REST – ICE – COMPRESSION – ELEVATION
- If the injury is not severe then stretching, foam rolling and strength training (which are proposed for injury prevention) may be recommended
- Yoga, specifically Restorative Yoga for Runners could also be supportive. We recommend emyoga.co.uk
- Sports massage
- Trigger point needling
What is RICE Therapy?
The acronym RICE stands for: REST – ICE – COMPRESSION – ELEVATION and may be helpful in the first 2-3 days following an injury to help manage the swelling and inflammation. It involves:
REST – rest the leg as much as possible
ICE – apply cold packs (a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel will also work) to the hamstring for up to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours during the day. Do not apply ice directly to your skin
COMPRESSION – compress or bandage the thigh to limit any swelling and movement that could cause further damage. A simple elastic bandage or elasticated tubular bandage could be used. These would be freely available from a pharmacy
ELEVATION – keep the leg raised and supported on a pillow as much as possible, to help reduce any swelling
A “Food First” approach to prevention and care of a hamstring injury
Eating “real food” containing targeted nutrients to support injury healing is the primary approach we use here at Runners Health Hub, but this does not mean we use a ”Food Only” approach, it would depend on the individual and the severity of the injury.
Key nutrients to consider for hamstring injury healing include:
Protein – to minimize muscle atrophy, to promote muscle repair
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – to enhance the healing process
Vitamin D – to maximise muscle regeneration
Vitamin C and E – potent antioxidant nutrients and free radical scavengers (free radicals being unstable molecules released as a result of inflammation and known to increase the magnitude of muscle damage)
Polyphenols – plant-based phytonutrients having antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties. They are known to speed up recovery time as well as reduce the extent of muscle damage from injury