As physical therapists, we hear a lot of questions related to the infamous hamstring muscles! Many of these questions are centered around the impact of a painful hamstring during running. We are going to tackle this one question at a time.
What causes hamstring pain while running?
There’s no one easy answer to figuring out what is likely to cause irritation of the hamstring while running. But if your symptoms flare up, there are three things that might be causing your hamstring pain. Consider the following the next time your hamstring muscles cause you issues during or after a run.
- Running at increased speeds from your normal pace.
- Adding in new terrain especially running stairs and uphill! This increases the stretch and therefore stress on the hamstring during running.
- Increased mileage during running.
How should I alter my running routine if my hamstring has been hurting when I run?
As long as your hamstring pain is not severe and you don’t suspect an injury, you can make some adjustments to your running routine rather than opting out altogether. If your pain increases, you should rest, and if you can’t bear weight or you’re altering your gait then it’s time to reach out to your local PT for an assessment. If you have an injury and you push without allowing time for recovery, you risk prolonging the injury. If your hamstring pain is low-grade, try the following adjustments when you run.
- Decrease the elevation gains. If your hamstring is painful, it can be helpful to temporarily decrease the steepness or frequency of hills (or stairs) in your training. If this is not possible based on where you live it can also be useful to decrease mileage on runs that include more hills.
- Monitor your pace. If you are dramatically increasing the pace of your runs, it can be useful to start at shorter distances with your new pace and then slowly increase mileage if you are not getting pains during, immediately after, or the next morning after a run. Use the 10-percent rule — increase running distance/mileage by no more than 10% a week.
- Add in more warm-up time! Doing butt kicks, straight leg kicks, foam rolling, hip bridges, and other dynamic stretches and exercises for your hamstrings before your run can often dramatically decrease pain and increase performance. We often say in physical therapy, “If you aren’t sweating in warm-ups you aren’t actually warming up!”
What can I do to prevent my hamstring pain from getting worse or coming back?
Once you’ve successfully treated your hamstring pain, there are steps you can take to prevent future problems with your hamstring muscles. You should continue to be mindful of the changes to your running routine that helped alleviate your hamstring pain. Strictly monitor the terrain you run on, your mileage, your pace, and your intervals! Additionally, make a commitment to the following.
- Stretch! It is critical to dynamically stretch your warmup before exercise (including running), foam rolling (before and after running) and statically stretch after running.
- Strengthen! If you aren’t training your glutes and hamstrings as a runner not only is the hamstring more likely to get irritated, so is the rest of your body, especially your lower back. We need the hamstrings to be rock solid for running purposes! Don’t forget, part of a good strength training routine for runners includes working the glutes and hips.
- Warm-up, warm-up, warm-up! Remember, if you aren’t sweating before you begin your workout you haven’t warmed up vigorously enough. Make a dynamic warm-up part of your routine, and never skip it.
Dealing with sore hamstring muscles can be stressful. It’s not uncommon for runners to experience hamstring pain or hamstring tightness. This is a large muscle and can cause a lot of frustration when irritated. Doing hamstring stretches and hamstring exercises can help prevent issues and can aid in recovery. If you are looking for solutions to recurring hamstring pain and seeking a plan to run pain-free, consider making an appointment with one of our musculoskeletal experts. Physical therapists have the education and experience to evaluate your condition, treat your symptoms, and work with you to create a plan of care for recovery and performance enhancement.
Are you experiencing discomfort with running or other activities?
Our physical therapists can help you return to a pain-free, active life. Our passion is to help every patient reach their goals on their journey to recovery and optimal performance.