Hamstring Pain While Running and What You Can Do About It

Doing speedwork is a crucial element for improving your running times. But all that sudden movement isn’t always kind to your body.

In some cases, it can result in hamstring pain while running.

What Does Hamstring Pain Feel Like?

When you pull a hamstring, you’ll know it. There’s nothing subtle about it.

Hamstring injuries can be felt at the back of the thigh -- it feels like a sharp pain and it comes out of nowhere. One second you feel fine, the next you’ll be wondering what happened as you try to shake it off.

Assessing the Damage

You might be able to judge how severe your injury is by how much it’s limiting your activity level and, of course, the intensity of the pain. Hamstring strains or tears are usually given a grade of 1 through 3, with 3 being the most serious.

According to Fresh Start Physiotherapy, 45% of athletes return to action in 23 days following a hamstring strain. 

If you only have a grade 1 injury, congratulations, you’re one of the luckiest unlucky runners. Yes, it sucks you have a hamstring injury, but the good news is that you’ll be back in your workout clothes in just a few days.

If it’s extremely mild pain, you might be able to continue running, but cut back on your miles. Don’t try to be a hero and cause yourself further damage.

Grade 2 is where things start to get a little more complicated -- it means your muscle has a partial tear. Your recovery is going to take a bit longer.

But, if you’ve reached grade 3, you’ve completely torn that muscle, and it might take you months to recover.

hamstring pain

Image Source Flickr user Steven Pisano

Treating Your Injury

For most hamstring injuries, runners won’t need any special treatment. Just use the old standards you’ve used for your other running injuries -- elevation, ice, rest, and compression.

If it’s not responding to that, or if you know right from the get-go that you have a severe injury, consult your doctor to see if physical therapy or even surgery is necessary.

What Can I Do To Prevent These Injuries?

To ward off hamstring injuries, you’ll want to warm up before your runs. Doing some quick stretches can do you a world of good.

You’ll also want to focus on your overall fitness. Recreational runners sometimes focus solely on running while completely ignoring other aspects of their fitness.

If your quadriceps, which are the muscles at the front of your thighs, are way stronger than your hamstrings, you’re at greater risk for hamstring injuries.

So add some hamstring-strengthening exercises into your routine to cut back on that risk.

You Only Have One Body, So Take Care of It

It can be tempting to shrug off the pain and head back out on your favorite trail or street, but if you’re suffering from hamstring pain, take some time off to make sure you’re fully healed before you resume running.

If taking one week off feels agonizing, imagine how awful you’ll feel when you have to take a month off because you’ve turned a small problem into a much bigger one.