Dealing With Sore Hamstrings

Shoshana Hebshi-Holt
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Man with sore hamstrings

Having sore hamstrings can wreak havoc on daily life. Soreness can make the simple act of walking quite a chore. While soreness cannot always be avoided, there are some good ways to alleviate the discomfort.

Caring for Sore Hamstrings

Soreness in the hamstrings brought on by overuse or an increase in use or exertion is a common experience. Lactic acid builds up in the muscle fibers, which can cause initial soreness or discomfort. The microscopic damage done to muscles during an intense workout can delay soreness, causing the height of the discomfort to come two or three days later.

There are a few ways to ease the pain, including using ice, getting rest, taking in fluids and doing gentle exercise. Note that there is a difference between pulling or tearing a hamstring and experiencing a sore muscle. A pulled hamstring should be treated quite differently as there is muscle damage that needs to be repaired. Soreness requires a little TLC.

Ice

Immediately following a hard workout that has stressed your hamstrings, apply ice packs directly to the backs of the legs. Cold therapy will slow blood flow to the area thereby reducing swelling, which causes soreness. A cold compress can be placed on the hamstrings for 20 minutes every four to six hours.

Rest

After a hard workout where soreness crops up, it's important to rest and recover. Lie down, put your feet up and give your muscles a break. Resting is an important part of exercise. Even adding in a little massage (self-applied or find a friend) can feel really good on sore hamstrings.

Stretch

If your hamstring soreness is relatively minor and there is no major injury in the muscles, it's a good idea to stretch. Warm the body first, however, to get blood flowing to the muscles, which will increase flexibility.

Taking a yoga class or a stretching class is a great way to get a well-rounded stretching routine. But make sure to listen to the body closely while stretching a sore muscle. If there is any sharp pain, back off. Stretching should feel good, not painful.

Roll It Out

A foam roller can give some much needed relief for sore hamstrings. Several repetitions with the long, round foam cylinder might hurt a little during, but after, the legs will start to feel better. The roller ignites myofascial release, which applies pressure to trigger points to release knots or kinks in muscles and aid recovery.

Hydrate

Water and exercise go hand in hand. The body needs to be hydrated to adequately repair tired, sore muscles. Fitness expert Ben Greenfield says drinking 20 to 24 ounces of water for every hour of exercise is a good rule to follow.

Exercise

Even if you're having difficulty moving around because of your sore hamstrings and your intuition tells you to lay low, fight the urge to lounge around. It's best to keep moving. Light exercise, or active recovery, that gets the blood circulating will help with the healing process, and you'll get a mood boost in the process.

It's Only Temporary

Congratulate yourself for moving enough to create sore hamstrings. While the soreness is uncomfortable, know that it is only temporary. Within a few days, your legs will return to normal and you'll be moving around with grace and ease once more.

You may be tempted to use an over-the-counter painkiller, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to ease the discomfort. However, studies have shown that pain-killers and anti-inflammatory medications do little to alleviate pain, and may even cause damage to the digestive system.

The suggestions in this list should help reduce muscle soreness, but if discomfort persists or worsens for more than a week, consult your doctor.

Dealing With Sore Hamstrings