It’s the beginning of the season for most of us and I’m sure many of us are looking ahead to improving our training; be faster; and go longer. Typically the winter months are used for active recovery and cross-training allowing the body and the mind to heal from the ardors of the past year. Some of us have incurred running injuries that were ignored during the season but are now needing to be addressed so that they don’t occur next year or prevent us from reaching our potential.
During running, the hamstrings have three main functions. First, they decelerate the knee extension at the end of the forward swing of the gait cycle. This action helps provide dynamic stabilization to the weight-bearing knee. Second, at foot strike, the hamstrings elongate to facilitate hip extension, again stabilizing the leg for weight bearing. Third, the hamstrings assist the calf muscles in extending the knee during the takeoff phase of the running cycle.Treatment Options and Rehabilitation:
After an initial evaluation and diagnosis by a health care professional, several treatment options are available for relieving high hamstring pain, preventing its recurrence, and getting the athlete back into running.
Treatment typically includes:
• Pain control. Ice works wonders.
• Pelvic alignment if necessary. I would recommend a sports chiropractor who has experience working with athletes.
• Soft-tissue mobilization. Breaking up adhesions or scar tissue will help realign muscle fibers. I would recommend a health care professional who specializes in deep tissue massage, myofascial release or muscle energy techniques.
• Progressive hamstring flexibility. An appropriate stretching regime for both legs to ensure a balanced structure.
• Core-strengthening program. I’ve included snapshots of two very effective exercises. These are not as easy as they look and should be performed with someone supervising them. It’s quite easy to think that you’re aligned when doing them, but that’s not usually the case. One side will typically be weaker than the other and there will be a tendency to compensate and use other muscles which might lead to injury.
Prone plank with hip extension.
Keeping your head level with the floor, support your body weight on your forearms (elbows bent at 90°) and toes. Maintain a neutral spine while maintaining position. Each leg is lifted and held for 5 secs. Repeat 5-10 times per side alternating legs.
Bridge on ball with ball curl.
Lay on the floor with your feet on a stability ball. Hips are raised until the knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. It’s important to keep your back in a neutral mid-range position. The bridge position is maintained as you push the ball forward and back. The goal is to be able to do this with both legs and then progress to single leg. Repeat 10 times.