The reason why we keep telling you to work out your glutes and hamstrings is that these muscle groups are crucial for athletic performance and running in particular. The hamstring muscle complex, for example, is what pushes you forward when you run; it also slows down your striding leg as it approaches the ground and also helps the calf muscles move the knee with each stride. Consequently, any sustained injury to this group of muscles is not only painful, it also limits your performance on the track. Hamstring injuries range from the common strain or rupture, which can usually be countered by adequate rest and the right exercises. However, a less common yet more debilitating injury is the inflammation of the hamstring tendons caused due to excessive overuse of muscles – this is known as High Hamstring Tendonitis. While fairly uncommon, hamstring tendonitis can be rather difficult to treat when it occurs, with a chance of chronic reoccurrence.
It helps to understand the exact location and function of the hamstring muscle complex to appreciate the causes and impact of the injury. The hamstring muscles are essentially three separate muscles that share the same beginning at the bottom of the pelvis but go on to be attached to different areas after crossing behind the knee joint. This critical junction of muscles and tendons—known as the ischial tuberosity—is prone to inflammation and strain during high-intensity training and can result in hamstring tendonitis. Alternatively, an existing nervous irritation or weakness in the muscle can be set off due to the repetitive nature of running, the constant wear and tear eventually taking a toll on the entire area by causing soreness and recurring pains.
Symptoms and treatment
Primarily a runner’s injury, hamstring tendonitis shares symptoms with several of the more common traits of overtraining such as soreness of the legs, followed by an aching discomfort on the upper hamstrings and deep within the buttocks. Depending on the extent of the inflammation, runners with onset of the injury are likely to experience pain immediately after a sprinting session, often preceded by discomfort in the lower back regions and tingling or numbing pain in the back of the leg. After extended periods where the injury remains untreated, there’s even a noticeable change in running gait, when the athlete tends to use his legs without disturbing the painful hamstring complex too much, often resulting in improper running form. Sitting on hard surfaces can also result in discomfort, with radiating pains reaching the lower back and upper thigh areas.
Physical trainers and sports medicine experts can determine the difference between a hamstring pull and the onset of high hamstring tendonitis through a combination of simple and assisted hamstring stretches. MRI scans can also help to understand if a tendon is thickened, ruptured or inflamed. Depending on the progress of the injury, runners can opt for a variety of treatments ranging from rest, ice or cold therapy, deep tissue massages, focused physiotherapy through corrective stretches and strengthening routines for the affected area. In extreme cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be necessary.
It is crucial to prevent the onset of any serious injury in the hamstring complex, chiefly because the pain can put your out for weeks and the recovery program might completely overrun your running schedule. One of the main ways to prevent sustained injuries to the hamstring is by strengthening the core muscles around the area as you step up your running routine, to ensure that the muscles are up to bearing the excessive strain thrust on them. Due to the chronic nature of hamstring injuries, some runners have to battle recurrent symptoms through their life, so early prevention and overall muscle health is always a blessing. Follow a systematic routine of hamstring pulls, stretches and load bearing followed by adequate rest to keep potential injuries at bay.
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