Physical Therapy and Hamstring Health

Non-invasive healing
With proper care and physical therapy, a mild hamstring injury will take 2-10 days to heal, while a severe injury can take up to 10 weeks. Full rehabilitation can take up to six months, depending upon the severity of the injury.

Hamstring injuries are more prevalent in older individuals and adolescents whose muscles and bones grow at different rates, but can occur at any age. Physical therapy is an essential component of the healing and rehabilitation process and has a variety of benefits that include:

  • It's non-invasive
  • Eases pain and discomfort
  • Maintains range of motion and flexibility
  • Re-establishes muscle strength
  • Retrains the body in how to move properly
  • Rehabilitation if a surgical repair is required

Many people try to return to their regular activities too soon or place too much stress on the leg before the injury is sufficiently healed or full strength and mobility has been regained. It's essential that patients exercise patience to prevent re-injury and making the condition worse.

Physical Therapy and Hamstring Health
The body has three muscles (collectively known as the hamstring) in the back of the thigh that can be injured, with the most common cause being participation in sports and athletic endeavors. The hamstring muscle allows people to extend the hip and bend the knee and dancers and skaters are also at increased risk. Once a hamstring muscle has been injured, it can be up to six times more likely to be injured again.

Hamstring muscles are typically injured when an individual:

  • Rapidly accelerates or stops suddenly while running
  • Changes direction quickly
  • When jumping
  • Sprinting, hurdling or kicking
  • During heavy lifting

Individuals are at increased risk if they don't warm up and stretch sufficiently before engaging in new, unfamiliar or strenuous activities. Muscle fatigue, a prior injury and weakness in the hamstring or glutes are all factors that contribute to an injury. The damage can range from mild and feel like a cramp. Some people don't realize they've even sustained an injury until they rest or during the following day.

In a severe hamstring injury, the individual may feel a "popping" sensation or a sharp pain in the back of the thigh that extends into the buttock. The area may be swollen, bruised and tender to the touch and there may be difficulty sitting, lifting the leg or stretching it out fully. If the muscle is torn, surgery may be needed to repair the damage.

Physical Therapy for Happy Hamstrings
The exact course of treatment will depend on the severity of the injury and your ultimate goals. Your physical therapist may recommend alternating heat and cryotherapies, elevation, compression, or immobilization to prevent swelling and further damage until the injury has stabilized sufficiently to begin physical therapy.

Your treatment will typically begin with gentle stretches to maintain flexibility and range of motion. During your rehabilitation, you may require crutches or a brace to keep weight off the leg. As the healing process progresses, specific strengthening exercises will be added, along with those to stabilize posture, balance, and agility.

A wide range of complementary therapies may be employed to speed your healing. Your physical therapist can provide information and training on the proper way to lift, warm up and stretch before activities. If you require aids for mobility, your therapist will assist you in learning to use canes and crutches, walkers or wheelchairs.

Therapeutic massage may be incorporated into your treatment plan to improve circulation and maintain flexibility. It's effective for easing pain, stimulating the immune system, and helping the body expel toxins. It's beneficial for relieving the stress that many patients experience while they're healing and recuperating. Electro-stimulation, hydrotherapy and biofeedback may also be used.

During an injury, many people develop unusual or improper behaviors and patterns of movement as they try to protect the affected leg. Gait training is a critical part of rehabilitating a hamstring injury that helps the body relearn how to move the way it did before the injury.

The focus of your physical therapy will be to ease pain, heal and return your hamstring and leg to full functionality. You'll also receive information and methods to help reduce the risk of injury in the future. Physical therapy provides a pathway to healing and rehabilitation that allows you to return to your activities as soon as possible.

Heal the Heel

Easy Does It
An injury to the heel can have a variety of causes, from arthritis and heel spurs to stress fractures and tendon injuries. It's important for individuals not to overwork the heel. People who aren't accustomed to extensive running, jogging and similar activities should never attempt participation without proper preparation.

Physical therapy can prepare your feet for rigorous usage and relieve the effects of overuse. Physical therapy can help in multiple areas that include:

  • Foot or heel supports
  • Remedy gait problems
  • Reduce plain, inflammation and swelling
  • Identify mechanical dysfunction
  • Increased foot support
  • Improved flexibility
  • Build strength and endurance

Pain in the heel and bottom of the foot may be caused by micro-tears in the ligament that's responsible for supporting the arch. Any type of heel pain may develop over time and it can appear suddenly, representing an acute injury. If left untreated, heel and Achilles tendon pain worsens and can transition into a chronic condition.

Guy stretching his heels

Heel Pain and Injury: The Physical Therapy Solution
The feet bear the weight of the body upon them, but the heel of the foot receives little thought unless it begins to hurt. Pain can originate under the heel (plantar fasciitis) or the back of the heel in the Achilles tendon. Inflammation, swelling and pain are common complaints associated with the heel.

An injury to any part of the heel can be extremely painful, producing inflammation and swelling. Individuals may have difficulty flexing their foot up or down, standing on their toes, or even walking. A heel injury may also result in a tingling sensation indicating the need for immediate medical care that will often require rehabilitation with a physical therapist.

Everyone has an occasional pain in the heel after extensive walking, jogging or sports activities and it typically disappears within a day or so with rest. Heel pain that interferes in standing, walking, or lasts a week or more can be helped with physical therapy.

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain resulting from running and jogging, obesity, and excessive standing. Pain may be present when people take their first few steps in the morning or after sitting down for an extended period of sitting.

Guy stretching his heels

Treat the pain with physical therapy
Your physical therapist can help you reduce the risk of injuring your heel with specific stretches, exercises and warm-ups that will prepare your foot for action. He/she can help you choose the right shoes for specific activities. Footwear varies widely and a shoe that's appropriate for power walking won't be appropriate for jogging or running a marathon.

Many people have developed mechanical dysfunction in their gait that leads to improper foot placement. Your physical therapist can examine your gait while walking, jogging and running to determine if retraining or realignment is necessary. He/she can help if arthritis or chronic conditions are involved.

Orthotic devices can be prescribed to ease pain and distribute weight more evenly for comfort. If you're overweight or your employment requires extensive time in a standing position, your physical therapist can recommend accommodations and ergonomic solutions to relieve stress on the entire foot and the rest of the body.

Manual manipulation may be employed to improve flexibility and mobility. If heel pain is caused by a weakness in the lower leg, hip or core, you'll have access to technologically advanced methods to strengthen those areas and improve endurance. Pain in the heel can originate in the back and spinal adjustments are effective for relieving pain in any part of the body.

Therapeutic massage and electro-stimulation may be used to loosen tight muscles in the calf and foot, relieve pain, and reduce inflammation and swelling. Braces and assistive devices can be obtained to provide support. Your physical therapist may also use dry needling, acupuncture, and joint mobilization to treat and reduce the risk of injury.

You don't have to be a world-class athlete or compete in marathons to experience pain in your heel. It can result from an incorrect step, being overweight, or participating in active endeavors without the proper warm-up. No matter what the source, your physical therapist can help with preventative measures and treatment if an injury has already occurred.