Pain in the back of your thigh can stop you from running, walking, or lifting and making sitting really painful. There are usually 3 possible causes when we see this here at Solutions Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine:
- Hamstring strain or tendinitis
- Lumbar radiculopathy or herniated disc
- Sciatic nerve irritation
Today we’re going to talk about hamstring strains and tendinitis. Hamstring strains happen when the hamstring tries to contract harder than it has the strength to. This is usually an acute injury that you feel right away and often happens when running, especially sprinting or playing sports. The pain can be anywhere in the back of the thigh, but usually is worse in one area towards the middle of the thigh, not the top or the bottom.
Hamstring tendinitis is more of an overuse injury that occurs over time. We see this a lot in runners as the tendon wears down from overuse. In this scenario, the pain can refer down the back of the thigh but is usually more noticeable towards the top of the thigh near the bottom of your butt at the “sit bone”. This is where the hamstring tendon connects the muscle to the bone. When you sit for along time or on the edge of a seat, the pressure on the tendon can cause it to be more irritated. Running and bending over to lift are often painful as well.
Hamstring strains are often easier to resolve than tendinitis. Strains can resolve in 3 to 4 weeks. Tendinitis can take 8 to 12 weeks. Hamstring strengthening exercises are the key to resolving both. Here are two that you can start at home:
Hamstring slides are good way to start strengthening your hamstrings. You don’t need a fancy slideboard like the picture shows. Just wear your socks and your feet will slide just as well on a hardwood floor. Try to bring your heels as close to your butt as you can without your hamstrings cramping. A little bit of your usual pain is okay and actually beneficial, but it shouldn’t be enough to make you grimace.
Start with 2 sets of 10 and work up to 3 sets as it gets easier. Do these every other day.
There are many variations on the deadlift. This one is called a Romanian deadlift and is a great way to strengthen the hamstrings. A couple key points with this exercise:
- It is really important to keep a slight arch in your low back throughout the movement. You should not bend forward at your back at all.
- Start with the weight on a chair or gym bench instead of the floor.
- Don’t worry about lowering the weight all the way to the floor. Start just trying to get your hands to knee level. Going to low too soon is an easy way to flare up your hamstring.
Try a couple reps to test the weight out. If it is the right amount, you will likely feel some tension and low intensity soreness in your hamstring. Again, it should not be enough to make you grimace. You may find you need to start with no weight initially.
When done correctly, both of the above exercises can help to strengthen your hamstrings and resolve your pain. However hamstring injuries can be tricky to fully resolve on your own and challenging to know if you’re on the right track. Professional guidance makes the process a lot easier. If you’ve tried these and you’re not sure if your doing them correctly or your still hurting, let us be your guide! At Solutions Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, we’re experts at treating hamstring pain. We can clarify why you’re hurting and help you overcome your injury.
Helping you live your best life,
The Solutions Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Team