If you are a runner, then you may have experienced a pulled hamstring at some point. This is a common injury that can occur when the hamstring muscles become stretched beyond their limit.

What many people don’t realize is that a pulled hamstring can also affect the knee. But how does a pulled hamstring affect the knee?

In this blog post, we will discuss the relationship between a pulled hamstring and the knee. We will also provide tips on how to prevent this injury from occurring in the future.

Hamstring Anatomy

The hamstring muscles are a group of three muscles that are located in the back of the thigh. These muscles are the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. The biceps femoris is the largest of the hamstring muscles and it attaches near the back of the knee on the lateral head of the fibula.

The semitendinosus and semimembranosus originate from the ischial tuberosity (a bone in the pelvis) and attach to the proximal end of the tibia (main shin bone). The hamstring muscle group helps to flex the knee and extend the hip. They also help to stabilize the knee joint.

The tendons of the hamstring muscles attach to the lateral aspect (fibular head – biceps femoris) and medial aspect (pes anserine – semitendinosus and semimembranosus) of the lower leg. These muscles work in collaboration with the ligaments to stabilize the knee joint.

The hamstring muscles are heavily involved in activities such as walking, running, and jumping.

It is important to actively stretch these muscles on the back of your thigh before participating in athletic activities to reduce the risk of injury.

Types of Hamstring Injuries

Hamstring injuries are unfortunately very common, especially among athletes. Several different types of hamstring injuries can occur. They are usually divided into two categories:

– acute injuries

– chronic injuries

Acute Hamstring Injuries

Acute hamstring injuries are typically the result of a sudden, forceful movement that overstretches the muscle. This can happen when sprinting or during a soccer game, for example. Acute injuries can range from a mild strain to complete hamstring tears. They are generally put into three grades: Grade 1, Grade 2, or Grade 3.

Grade 1: A mild strain in which the muscle fibers are stretched but not torn. There is usually minimal pain and swelling with this type of injury.

Grade 2: A moderate strain (partial tear) in which some of the muscle fibers are torn. This results in more pain and swelling than a Grade I injury.

Grade 3: A severe tear in which all or most of the muscle fibers are torn. This results in a significant amount of pain and swelling at the injury site.

Chronic Hamstring Injuries

Chronic hamstring injuries are those that arise as a result of repetitive stress on the muscle. They are often seen in athletes who participate in sports that require a lot of running and jumping, such as soccer, basketball, and track.

An example of such an injury is chronic hamstring tendinopathy. This condition is characterized by the inflammation of the upper hamstring musculature, near the buttocks and upper thigh. It is often the result of overuse and can be quite painful.

Blood flow plays a vital role in healing all types of hamstring injuries. When the muscle is injured, blood flow to the area increases to deliver oxygen and nutrients that promote healing. For this reason, it is important to maintain good circulation by performing exercises that get the blood flowing to the legs.

Hamstring injuries can be very painful and debilitating, but with proper care and rehabilitation, most people make a full recovery.


Causes and Symptoms of a Hamstring Injury 

The most common symptom of a hamstring injury is posterior thigh pain, which can range from mild to severe. Other symptoms may include tenderness, swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking.

Hamstring injuries are usually caused by overstretching or tearing the muscle or tendons further causing sharp pain. This can happen suddenly, as a result of a sudden movement or impact, or it can occur gradually over time due to repetitive stress.

Whether sudden or gradual, the main reason for a hamstring injury is always the same: the muscle has been asked to do more than it is capable of.

Risk Factors

The main risk factor for having a hamstring injury is weak or inflexible hamstring muscles. You may think this is pretty straightforward, but many trainers, therapists, and coaches have neglected the necessary training to alleviate these issues throughout the entire functional range of motion.

The myth that being flexible negatively impacts your explosiveness is persistent and detrimental to athletes both for their performance and to stay healthy throughout their season.

Being strong through any range of motion that you could find yourself in during competition is imperative to being a healthy and successful athlete.

How to Diagnose a Pulled Hamstring

If you think you may have pulled your hamstring, it is important to seek medical attention so that you can receive an accurate diagnosis and avoid severe pain.

One way to diagnose a hamstring injury is through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This imaging technique can provide detailed information about the muscle tissue and how it has been damaged. However, an MRI is not always necessary.

A physical examination by a trained healthcare professional can often be just as effective in diagnosing a hamstring injury. They will look for signs of bruising, swelling, and tenderness in the area. A severe injury may also involve a visible bulge in the muscle tissue.


Does a Pulled Hamstring Affect the Knee?

While a hamstring injury can be extremely painful, it typically does not affect the knee joint directly.

However, if the injury is severe enough, it can cause instability in the knee, which can lead to other problems such as a patellar subluxation or patellar dislocation. This is because the stability that the hamstring provides the knee will be diminished, leaving your knee joint more susceptible to other injuries.

In addition, if you have a hamstring injury it could cause swelling and lead to stiffness, discomfort, or even knee pain during activities like walking, running, or lifting.

Treatment Options

Physical Therapy

If you’ve pulled your hamstring, you’re likely looking for treatment options that will help you heal quickly and get back to your normal activities. Physical therapy is often an effective treatment plan for a pulled hamstring.

A physical therapist can help you design a strengthening exercise program that will improve the elasticity of your muscles, improve your range of motion, and help prevent future injuries.

In addition, the therapist can provide manual therapy techniques to help reduce inflammation and pain.

If your pain is severe, your therapist may also recommend icing and other modalities to help you reduce swelling and discomfort. With proper treatment, most people can recover from a pulled hamstring within 6 weeks.

However, it’s important to listen to your body and take things slowly to avoid re-injury and regain full function.

Anti-inflammatory Medications

You might consider trying anti-inflammatory medications if you’ve suffered a pulled hamstring. These drugs can help to reduce pain and swelling, making it easier to move around and resume your usual activities. As always, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new medication.

They can help you determine whether this is the right course of treatment for you and offer guidance on how to use the medication safely and effectively. With their help, you can get back on your feet in no time.

Ice, Rest, and Elevation

Other treatment options for a hamstring injury typically include icing the area with an ice pack to reduce inflammation, elevation to reduce swelling and rest to allow the hamstring to heal.

In some cases, scar tissue may form and cause the hamstring to remain tight and painful. Severe hamstring injuries may require surgery to repair the damage.

Last Resort: Surgery

While minor strains can be treated with ice and rest, more severe injuries may require surgical intervention, like a hamstring tendon avulsion. The best way to determine if surgery is necessary is to consult with a doctor or orthopedic specialist.

During surgery, the surgeon will make an incision in the back of the leg and repair the damaged tissue by reinserting the tendon in the correct location. Afterward, the leg will be placed in a splint or brace to allow for healing.

Take Good Care of Your Hamstring

With proper medical treatment and rehabilitation, most hamstring strains will heal within a few weeks. However, it is important to give your hamstring extra care during this time to prevent further injury.

Avoid activities that put stress on the hamstring muscles, and be sure to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings and surrounding soft tissue regularly. With some patience and care, your hamstring will soon be as good as new.

About the Author

Hi there! I’m Dr. Keagen Hadley, OTD, OTR/L. Straight out of the University of Mary, I’m all about blending my know-how in knee health, well-being, and medical technology. As a licensed occupational therapy doc, I’m here to translate complex concepts into clear, actionable insights – whether it’s knee care or groundbreaking healthcare tech.

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