Any injury to the leg, such as a hamstring strain, can make going through daily life anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to severely painful. With a severely injured leg, even trying to bend your knee can be unbearable. The severity of the injury also determines how long your recovery time could be, ranging from just a few days to several months. Because of the variables present, we have put together a guide to answer, “how long can a hamstring injury take to heal?”

what is hamstring injury

What Is a Hamstring Injury?

What is commonly referred to as the “hamstring” actually refers to a group of three muscles along the back of the thigh, running from the hip to just below the knee. When these muscles are stretched beyond their normal limits, a tear or strain can occur.

While “tear,” and “strain,” are commonly used interchangeably, they do not always mean the same thing. A strain occurs when the hamstring muscles are overextended, whereas a tear is a type of strain where the muscle fibers have ripped completely.

hamstring strain grades

What Are the Different Hamstring Strain Grades?

Depending on the severity of the injury, a hamstring strain can fit into one of three grades: Grade 1, Grade 2, or Grade 3. Each of these grades have a different recovery time, so it is important to accurately identify the severity of your hamstring injury.

Grade 1

A Grade 1 hamstring strain is a relatively mild muscle pull that generally heals in anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Grade 1 strains usually cause some light pain and tenderness at the back of the thigh, making it difficult to move. That being said, the hamstring muscles’ strength should be unaffected.

Grade 2

Grade 2 hamstring strains occur when the hamstring muscles suffer a partial tear. Compared to a Grade 1 injury, a Grade 2 hamstring tear is noticeably more painful, with patients likely experiencing a limp while walking. Loss of strength in the leg, swelling, and bruising at the back of the thigh are also common symptoms of a Grade 2 tear. Grade 2 hamstring tears generally have a recovery time anywhere from a few weeks to a month.

Grade 3

Grade 3 tears are severe, complete tears of the hamstring, and can take months to heal. Significant bruising and sensitivity around the affected area can make even low-impact activities like walking and standing difficult and painful. It also is not uncommon for patients to have felt or heard a popping sensation at the time of the injury, making this class of torn hamstring among the easiest to identify. If you suffer a Grade 3 hamstring tear, expect a recovery time of a few months, and perhaps even surgery.

hamstring pull or tear

How Do I Know if My Hamstring Is Pulled or Torn?

If you suspect you have a hamstring injury, there is a list of methods a doctor can use to determine if you do and how severe it is. A physical check for bruising, swelling, and or tenderness may be enough for less severe strains, but an MRI or ultrasound could also be necessary to determine the grade of the injury.

does hamstring injury heal

Do Hamstring Injuries Ever Heal?

So how long can a hamstring injury take to heal? If you’re dealing with a Grade 3 hamstring injury, it may feel like the injury will never heal, and understandably so. But our bodies are resilient; mild and moderate hamstring strains can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (a.k.a. The RICE method).

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve pain and inflammation, but be sure to consult your doctor first and do not take more than the amount listed on the bottle. For Grade 2 and 3 strains, your doctor may also recommend physical therapy to help regain flexibility and strength in your hamstring muscles.

However, if you are dealing with a hamstring avulsion, surgery will be necessary. A hamstring avulsion is a tear in which the muscle is separated from the bone completely, so it has to be surgically reattached either with stitches or staples. Recovery time after this procedure is quite lengthy, with a four-to-six month window being commonly cited as normal.

How To Prevent a Hamstring Injury

Hamstring injuries have several key causes, namely: improper or inadequate stretching, lack of muscle strength, muscle fatigue, poor flexibility, and/or differences in leg length. For most people, running or jogging is when these injuries occur, though any sharp, sudden movement can also injure your hamstring.

Other factors include injury history and age: adolescents are at risk due to their muscles and bones growing at uneven rates, and flexibility generally declines with age, placing older people at risk as well.

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Visit Village Emergency Centers

Even if you take the right precautions, it is possible that injuries occur regardless. When emergencies happen, your local emergency clinic will be there for you, and ready to address all of your hamstring injury concerns.