How to Avoid Pulling a Hammy

Steps you can take today to protect your hamstrings tomorrow.

Located on the back of your thighs, your hamstrings are a group of muscles that are key to your ability to take off running from a standstill. They also make it possible for you to perform the less strenuous task of walking.

If you’re not careful, you can pull a hamstring muscle, which can cause significant pain and reduced quality of life. From sudden pain in the back of your thigh to bruising or muscle weakness in the hamstring to an inability to bear weight on the affected leg, an injured hamstring should not be taken lightly.

So what can you do to offer maximum protection to your hamstrings?

Strengthen Your Hammies

Want to keep your hamstrings from injury? The first step is to make them stronger. There are a lot of great exercises that can help you do this, and one of the simplest is to lie on your back on the ground. While bending your right leg and holding it with both hands behind the knee, allow your left leg to extend out completely on the floor. Slowly straighten your right leg until it is pointed directly overhead. Hold the position for a moment and return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times and then switch legs for another set.

Bigger Risk. Everyone runs the risk of a pulled hamstring now and then. But some folks are more likely than others to suffer a hamstring injury. If you’re not very flexible, play sports, or have had a hamstring injury in the past, you’re more likely than others to suffer a future hamstring injury.

Stretch Them Out

In addition to having strong hamstrings, you should make sure they’re ready for exercise when you’re about to hit the court or field. Hamstring stretches are some of the most common stretches people do, so you probably already have a few of them up your sleeve. Good choices include touching your toes while standing up (bend at the knees if needed) or sitting down on the ground with one leg extended and bending over your legs to touch your toes. Another good hamstring stretch is placing one foot on a step and flexing your foot upward, while leaning your body forward.

Pay Attention

Not a world-class athlete? Then you shouldn’t push your body like one. To avoid hamstring injuries that often occur, know your body’s limits and don’t push it to the point of pain. Feel yourself getting tired and a little bit sloppy? Call it a day and get some rest. Otherwise, your likelihood of hamstring injury increases substantially. You should also know yourself well enough to be cautious when trying out new activities. As hamstring injuries frequently occur while skiing, kicking, dancing, running, jumping, and lifting weights, be particularly careful when trying these activities for the first time – or for the first time in a while.

Take Action

Feel a little pain in your hamstrings? Unless you want a minor muscle strain to turn into a torn muscle, you’ll want to get off your feet and onto the at-home treatment of choice: RICE. With RICE, you start off by resting (R) the injured body part. Since it’s difficult to walk without using both legs, you may need to spend a little time off your feet. The next step is to use ice (I) to reduce swelling that may occur when you injure your hamstring. Following 20 or 30 minutes of ice, compress (C) the injured hamstring. If this is not effective in alleviating pain, skip the compression and go ahead and elevate (E) the injured leg. This keeps your injured hamstring from getting too much blood flow and increasing inflammation. It also helps you rest, which is the first step of RICE.