// Disclaimer: I'm not a health professional, I'm just telling what worked for me. If you wanna try it, you're acting at your own risk and I strongly recommend asking a doctor before! This article does not substitute proper medical treatment! //
Hamstrings strains are pretty common among athletes, dancers and acrobats of all kinds. Mostly it's one of these scenarios: You stretch too far, without an adequate warmup, in a cold room or you just overuse the muscle. Especially fast, explosive movements without control such as ballistic stretches are risky.
I had a nice oversplit on both sides years ago, until I strained the inner hamstring tendon doing a high leg kick while hula hooping - without having done an adequate warmup
before. To cure it, I had to pause a long time. I also tried to preserve the injured leg by compensating with the other one - until I got a strain there too, from overusage. So I had to stop
stretching both legs and lost my splits. I waited, waited, ... and tried to continue stretching... too early. Several times.
Again I had to pause and went to the doctor who was helpless - so I focused on other things and didn't train my splits. Until I got the idea to visit an osteopath. He tortured me several times (in a constructive way^^), I did MANY fascia exercises and my legs finally got better. There are still some ups and downs regarding splits, but as soon as I started to warm up rigorously before each training, use castor oil and do fascia exercises about once a week, I finally got steady splits again.
Such an epic effort behind a single pose, you might think. But training aerial silks, I constantly need to invert which means to bend to the front which means using my hamstrings' flexibility all the time.
In which positions do we stretch our hamstrings?
The so-called hamstrings contain of three different muscles at the back of our thighs: Biceps Femoris (lateral hamstring), Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus (medial hamstrings).
They originate in the buttocks bone and lead to different spots below the knee joint.
Therefore a hamstring stretch does only happen when the leg is elongated and your pelvic tilts to the front - which happens during any front bend, especially front splits (front leg), the middle split, straddle, pancake and high kicks to the front and the side.
Even at arabesque poses or when you're tying your shoes, you may feel a little stretch at the back of your thighs depending on your flexibility :-)
Hints to cure a strained muscle:
● Immediately after the strain:
Rest the muscle, don't stretch it, apply ice, put the leg up, go see a doctor and a physio, maybe take some anti-inflammatory medicines - they didn't help me, but if the doctor
advises you to take them, why not trying it out?
It's better to rest a few days too long than too short...
● Stretching: If you stretch a torn muscle
during the acute phase, the tear can go worse. Just imagine stretching a fabric with a fracture, the fracture will likely get bigger! Nonetheless, most physio therapists recommend light stretches
to avoid building up scar tissue. So the solution must be somewhere inbetween: Learn to listen to your body, stretch only as far as your
body and your doctor allow it and start with light stretches. Chances are that you didn't listen appropriately to your body before - hence relearn it and pay attention to the tiniest sensation.
When to restart and how intensely to stretch depends highly on your body and the severety of your strain: There's no overall answer, but I'd wait at least a few days.
● Fascia treatments: To improve blood circulation and regeneration by stimulating the body's self-healing powers. This is a big chapter and you can search for specific tutorials on Youtube. But there are some basic rules:
Don't undergo fascia
treatments and massages when your muscles are sore or your strain is acute because the repair process is already happening! Depending on where your strain is located and how big it is, you can
use fascia rolls, balls or peanuts (duo balls) for a self massage. The harder the tool, the more effective is the treatment, the smaller the tool, the more intensely and focused it can affect a
certain spot of your body.
Do small, but intense movements with your full weight onto the tool and try to relax the muscle even if it hurts! When it stops hurting, treat another region. You can also put your weight on the fascia tool and move your leg so that the muscle action provides for a massage.
-> When and how long? - Before your training. The duration is a personal decision, I do about 3 minutes per muscle / body region and in total at most 30 minutes once a week as a general regeneration application. If you're treating a strain, I'd suggest up to 3 times a week.
-> Your trigger point is rarely accessible? - Try to use fascia balls: My strain happened at the hamstring tendon, very close to the buttocks bone at the attachment of the muscle, so I put the ball on a yoga block, sat on the elevated ball and tried to relax the pain away. If you still think that your fascia treatment is not working, an osteopath might be the solution.
● Remedies: I massage my muscles regularly
with castor oil ahead of intense stretching sessions - it's anti-inflammatory. Of course there's also tons of vitamins and stuff you can take orally,
example some athletes take enzymes.
And I don´t think I need to mention that a healthy nutrition and lifestyle without smoking and with little alcohol is beneficial.
● Prevention: Warm up! Every time you're doing any sport, warm up gradually and prepare your body beforehand! No exeptions! The warmup should last at least ten minutes and contain mobility exercises, pulse raiser exercises and active stretches. This was the biggest game changer for my cure - and at the same time the hardest to implement into my daily training since I hate warming up ;-)
I hope this article has helped you! I wish you a good recovery and don't forgot to tell me in the comments section what helped you to heal!
Do you need a flexibility coach? Contact me here!