Cross Training For Runners

The Complete Guide to Managing Hamstring Pain and Injuries in Runners

5 Mins read

Hamstring injuries can be quite the thorny predicament (pun not intended, but appreciated).

These muscles, situated in the posterior realm of our bodies, have a knack for causing tears, strains, and inflammation—leaving us in a world of discomfort.

But fret not, for I bring tidings of good news!

By tending to the well-being of our hamstrings, we can diminish the risk of these pains escalating into full-blown injuries. Not only that, but we can unlock the gateway to optimal performance.

In this article, I’ll share with you the full guide to managing hamstrings pain and injuries while running. More specifically, I’ll dive into

  • Hamstrings anatomy
  • Why hamstring pain is common in runners
  • Why stretching your hammies is key
  • Powerful strength moves to prevent injury
  • And so much more

Sounds great?

Let’s get started.

What Are The Hamstrings

Imagine your hamstrings as the guardians of your running kingdom, hidden along the mystical path of your thighs.

These three mighty muscles, known as the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris, stretch from the regal pelvis to the noble knee, firmly stationed on the backside of your upper legs. They are responsible for the graceful flexion of your knees, allowing you to effortlessly raise your foot and deliver a powerful kick.

But that’s not all.

The hamstrings possess a multifaceted prowess, serving as extensors and rotators of the hips. In simpler terms, they are the workhorses we rely on during our running escapades.

Now, here’s the twist of fate: the more miles we conquer, the more we ask of our faithful hamstrings. They toil tirelessly, day after day, and gradually, they may begin to rebel. Overuse becomes the villain of our tale, causing these dutiful muscles to tense up and contract, ultimately leading to the dreaded hamstrings issues that lie in wait down the road.

The pain they inflict is a stubborn adversary, slow to heal and quick to hinder our running ambitions.

Many a runner has found themselves spending weeks, or even months, seeking respite in rest or turning to alternative exercises before they can once again embrace the joy of pain-free training.

But here’s the secret twist in this tale: the story tends to repeat itself. Hamstring injuries have a knack for making a comeback, returning with a vengeance, particularly when we fail to address the root cause of the initial injury. Like a persistent foe, they remind us of their presence, urging us to pay heed and take action to protect our running kingdom.

How to Take Care Of Your Hamstrings Pain in Runners

If you find yourself caught in the clutches of hamstrings issues, fear not! For within the depths of these strategies lie the keys to soothing your pain and preventing future injury.

Stretching Your Hamstrings

Imagine your hamstrings as delicate threads of a tapestry, yearning to be loosened and embraced. Regular stretching exercises hold the power to improve their flexibility, allowing them to dance with grace and expand their range of motion.  Stretching can also be performed anywhere, with no fancy equipment required.

Listen closely, for poor alignment may be the mischievous culprit behind your suffering. Your hamstrings may already find themselves in an overextended position, yearning for relief. In such a scenario, consider turning your attention to the quads—the opposing muscle group—to uncover the root of the problem.

So how do you get the most out of stretching as a runner?

Perform a series of static stretches right after an active warm-up or a run, but never before a workout, as doing so may compromise your performance and increase injury risk.

While stretching, take your hamstrings to the end range of hold for 45 to 60 seconds.

Perform the stretches on both sides.

Rear view of young woman standing on an empty road getting ready for a run. Sporty woman ready for her morning workout.

Strength Train Your Hamstrings

Amongst the intricate web of our musculature, a notable imbalance often emerges between the hamstrings versus the mighty quadriceps, those muscles that reside at the front of our thigh.

Imagine a seesaw in which the hamstrings and quadriceps play opposing roles. With each stride upon the earth’s embrace, a delicate equilibrium is maintained. The hamstrings pull us back, ensuring our bodies stay centered over our legs, while the quads propel us forward, propelling us toward greatness.

But alas, imbalance strikes, casting a shadow of trouble upon our running endeavors. The once harmonious relationship becomes distorted, leaving our hamstrings weakened in comparison to their quad counterparts. Repetitive loading upon the frontal chain from our beloved running journeys takes its toll. We find ourselves at risk of torn muscles in the back of our thighs, unable to withstand the demands we place upon them.

But it’s not a dead end. By incorporating targeted strength training exercises into our routines, we can restore balance and unleash the true potential of our hamstrings. Picture yourself engaging in a symphony of movement as each exercise serves to strengthen these vital muscles.

Science backs this up. A study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine demonstrated that incorporating strength training exercises, such as single-leg deadlifts and eccentric hamstring curls, can help correct muscle imbalances and enhance overall hamstring function.

Ideal exercises for strengthening the hamstrings include:

  • Single-leg deadlift
  • Eccentric hamstrings curls
  • Single-leg glute bridges
  • Weighted lunges

Massage Your Hamstrings Pain

The hamstrings muscles are responsible for bending or flexing the knees as well as extending the hips.

Muscle knots in these muscles may cause pain or tenderness either in the back of the upper leg as well in the buttocks area.

A good massage therapist will use their hands to manipulate these muscles and the tissue surrounding them to help with any from stress to pain to muscle tension.

A good massage may help break down any scar tissue that has formed in muscles and the tissue surrounding them, helping soothe tightness muscles and improve circulation to the area—all of which aids in the recovery process.

Here’s how to self-massage your hamstrings.

Find the muscle knot by applying pressure to the affected region.

A muscle knot can be actively tender.

Rub the muscle knot gently to let blood and oxygen flow free to the affected area.

If you don’t like to massage your hamstrings on your own, make an appointment with a licensed massage therapist, especially if you can afford it.

Foam Roll Your Hamstrings Pain

Foam rolling is a form of a self-myofascial release massage performed using a cylindrical piece of foam.

It helps soothe soreness, and inflammation, increase joint range of motion, and, most importantly, relieve muscle tightness, especially in the hamstrings.

Don’t take my word for it. Research published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy highlights the benefits of self-myofascial release techniques, like foam rolling, in alleviating muscle tightness and enhancing recovery (Cheatham et al., 2015)..”

What’s more?

Foam rolling is a fantastic tool to add to your warm-up or cool-down routine before and after running.

It also works very well for relieving hip pain from running.

How?

It’s simple.

Foam rolling breaks down and soothes knots that hinder the range of motion, preparing your muscles for stretching and optimum performance.

Here’s a quick foam roll stretch you can use to target your hamstrings.

Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.

Place the roller beneath your upper thigh.

Put your hands behind you, fingers facing away.

Next, place the foam roller beneath your right hamstring, and bring your left ankle up to the rest of the right knee, then lift your bottom off the floor, so your weight is resting on your hands and the foam roller.

Roll back and forth so that the foam roller rolls up and down the entire back of your thigh, and look for tender spots or tension points throughout both of the hamstrings.

Keep in mind that you can also use a baseball or tennis bass for the same purpose if you don’t have a foam roller.

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