How do you know if a hamstring is pulled or torn?
A torn hamstring will hurt a lot and make it really difficult to walk. You may also find a lot of bruising on the back of your thigh. Sometimes you may also hear a pop at the time of your injury. A pulled hamstring will hurt, but you should be able to walk on it without excruciating pain, and still make it through your day. I don’t see hamstring injuries too often as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs. I think this is because most of them heal on their own, so I really only see the bad ones.
What is the difference between a pulled or torn hamstring?
A pulled hamstring is one that is still intact, meaning that you may have caused small tears, but the overall hamstring muscle is still attached at both ends. One end is near your butt, and the other end is near your knee. If you tore your hamstring, it means that at least one of the hamstring muscles have become unattached and will usually retract to somewhere in your thigh. You have four hamstring muscles and you can tear any of them, although some are torn much more than others.
Can a torn hamstring heal on its own?
The short answer is yes, it can heal on its own, but it depends on the type of hamstring tear. If your hamstring tears near the middle of the muscle or near the knee, it will usually heal on its own. Usually one tendon tears will be allowed to heal on their own. Once you start getting into two tendon tears then you may be looking at surgery depending on how far the hamstrings have retracted (think of it like a stretched rubber band snapping and becoming limp). Three tendon tears normally require surgery. You will likely also need surgery if your hamstrings tear off the bone near your butt. So how do you know how many hamstring tendons you have torn? The answer is an MRI. You will need a MRI to tell you exactly how many hamstring tendons you have torn, and how far they have retracted. This, combined with your lifestyle goals will determine if you need surgery.
How can you prevent hamstring injuries?
You can prevent hamstring injuries by making sure that your hamstrings are loose by stretching them regularly. It is also very important to stretch before playing sports so you don’t get injured. You may also be prone to injury because some of your muscles in your thigh and hips are unbalanced. Strengthening your quadriceps, abdominal muscles, and hip muscles, as well as your hamstring muscles is also very important. I always stretch before I do any physical activity, and this is my recommendation as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs.
I hope I was able to answer your questions about how do you know if a hamstring is pulled or torn. If you still have any questions or want to schedule an in person or virtual consult, please feel free to contact me.
-Written by Dr. Daniel Paull