Athletes and others who frequently sprint, climb, jump or lunge are at a higher risk of a painful hamstring injury. Treatment includes rest, ice, compression, elevation and gentle stretching that leads to easy exercises. Most treatments can be done at home. It can take a few days to heal or as long as a few months, depending on the severity of the injury.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
The hamstring connects the largest thigh muscle to your bone. The main job of your hamstring is to allow your leg to flex (bend) and extend (stretch). You use your hamstring the most when you:
The grade describes the severity of your hamstring injury:
Athletes, especially those who jump, climb and lunge. You’re also more likely to have a hamstring injury if you’ve had one before.
Yes. The pain in your thigh may come on suddenly.
Hamstring injuries can occur in a number of ways, the most common is through overstretching. Other reasons include:
You may have different symptoms depending on how severe your injury is.
Additional symptoms include:
Your hamstring injury may be worse if you don’t follow the R.I.C.E. acronym after your injury. R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Your healthcare provider may be able to diagnose your hamstring injury based on the symptoms you report. They may test the tenderness and examine the swelling and bruising around your hamstring. Sometimes they may order a magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI).
Your primary healthcare provider can diagnose a hamstring injury, talk to you about how to treat it and let you know when you can return to your normal activities. They might also refer you to a physiotherapist, sports medicine specialist or orthopedic (bone) healthcare provider if you need special help.
It’s helpful to be prepared to answer questions your healthcare provider may ask. Possible questions include:
You can treat your hamstring injury at home, but some people may need physical therapy as well. Listen to your healthcare provider’s instructions and try:
Be aware that you can injure yourself further if you do your stretches and exercises too fast. Go slowly, and stay in touch with your healthcare provider regarding when it’s safe to return to normal activities.
There are no special ways to sleep that may help with a hamstring injury. However, be sure to wear your compression wrap or elastic thigh sleeve.
The grade (severity) of your injury determines how long it will take you to recover. A grade 1 strain may take around three days. Grades 2 and 3 could take weeks to months.
If you’re a runner or climber, there’s always a possibility that you could injure your hamstring. It’s less likely to happen if you:
The outlook is very positive. You should heal within days or weeks or, at most, months.
No. You must follow your recovery plan. If you stay away from exercise for too long, your hamstring muscles may shrink. There may also be scar tissue.
Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations regarding exercise. Start off with very gentle stretching, then walking or cycling and strengthening exercises.
A mildly strained hamstring that is not treated properly and allowed to heal sufficiently may result in recurring strains of that hamstring.
Yes, but you will be limited. You may need crutches to walk and you won’t be able to do your usual exercises. But, you should be able to continue other activities and maintain your quality of life.
Your hamstring injury might just need to be treated at home. However, you should see your healthcare provider if:
If you think your injury is severe enough that you can’t wait to see your primary healthcare provider, don’t hesitate to go to the emergency department. There’s always the possibility that your hamstring actually disconnected from your bone.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
The grouping of muscles and tendons in the back of your thigh helps your leg flex and stretch. If injured, the pain can be mild to severe, and there may be swelling and bruising. Do at-home treatments slowly at first, being careful to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations. While it may take just a few days to a few months for you to heal, remember that you should take steps to prevent a hamstring injury from happening again. Don’t rush your healing.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/14/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.