How Long Does It Take to Recover From a Hamstring Injury?

Medically Reviewed on 10/25/2021

What is a hamstring?

Hamstring injuries, no matter how severe, can be painful and bothersome. Depending on how intense your injury is, you might need a few days or a few months to recover.
Hamstring injuries, no matter how severe, can be painful and bothersome. Depending on how intense your injury is, you might need a few days or a few months to recover.

Hamstring injuries, no matter how severe, can be painful and bothersome. This important muscle needs time and attention to recover properly. It’s a common sports injury and can usually be treated at home.

The term hamstring refers to tendons and muscles on the back of your thighs. The tendons are tough groups of tissue that connect your thigh muscle to the bone. The muscles are a group of three that follow the back of your thigh from your hip to the bottom of your knee.

When sitting, standing, or walking, your hamstrings aren’t engaged much. As you do activities that bend your knee, like running, jumping, and climbing, you use your hamstrings much more.

Recovering from a hamstring injury

Hamstring injuries happen when these tendons or muscles strain or tear. Depending on how intense your injury is, you might need a few days or a few months to recover. There are three different levels of hamstring injury:

  • Grade 1: pulling or straining the muscle
  • Grade 2: a partial tear of the muscle
  • Grade 3: a complete tear of the muscle

For the first few days after you injure your hamstring, follow the RICE method:

  • Rest: Avoid using your leg as much as possible. You might need to use crutches to get around if your injury is severe.
  • Ice: Keep your injury iced for up to 20 minutes every few hours during the day. Wrap the ice pack in a towel instead of placing it straight onto your skin.
  • Compression: Wrap your thigh to prevent swelling and limit movements that could cause more damage to your hamstring. An elastic bandage from the grocery store or pharmacy will work.
  • Elevation: To prevent swelling, elevate your leg on a pillow as much as possible.

If you’re in a lot of pain, you can take over-the-counter pain medication according to the instructions on the label. You can also use an anti-inflammatory cream.

Don’t be tempted to rush your recovery and return to your normal activities; this could worsen your hamstring injury. Don’t prolong your recovery either, or your hamstring muscles can shrink, and scar tissue will form around the injury.

The best way to find a balance is to wait a few days after the pain has stopped and then begin gently stretching your hamstring. Low-impact exercises like walking, biking, and hamstring-strengthening activities will help you return to full strength.

Even after you recover, you’ll still need to take steps to avoid reinjuring yourself. Focus on stretching and strengthening your muscles and warming up before you do any physical activity.

Common causes of a hamstring injury

When you stretch your hamstrings further than they can handle, hamstring injuries happen. It’s hard to prevent damage to your hamstring because it can happen during quick, explosive motions, like sprinting or jumping, as well as slow movements.

For example, when you’re running and swing your leg forward to take another step, your hamstring muscles have to contract to bend your knee and bring your foot to the ground. At this point, you’re vulnerable to a hamstring injury.

You’re more susceptible to a hamstring injury if:

  • You’ve already had one
  • You’re increasing in age 
  • You have poor flexibility and strength 
  • There’s a muscle strength imbalance in your quads and hamstrings 
  • You don’t warm up correctly 

Signs of a hamstring injury

If you have a grade 1 hamstring injury, you’ll feel some pain and tenderness behind your thigh. It might hurt or feel tight when you move your leg, but you’ll still have the full strength of your muscle. You might be able to put weight on your leg, and you might have pain when sitting or walking upstairs. You also may not notice the injury right away.

A grade 2 hamstring injury will be significantly more painful and tender, and you won’t feel as strong as usual. You’ll have immediate pain, and you’ll probably limp or feel sudden pulses of pain. You might also notice swelling and bruising on the back of your thigh, and you won’t be able to fully straighten your knee.

A grade 3 hamstring injury will cause you extreme pain. When you injure it, there might be a "pop," and you’ll feel pain, tenderness, swelling, and bruising almost immediately. You won’t be able to use the injured leg at all. If it’s a severe tear, you might need to have surgery.

Caring for your hamstring injury

If home treatments don’t improve your condition, you should contact your healthcare provider. They can advise you on further home treatments, when to return to normal activities, and if you need more serious treatment.


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Medically Reviewed on 10/25/2021

National Health Service: "Hamstring injury."

Patient: "Hamstring Injuries."

Sports Medicine Australia: "Hamstring Strain."