Hamstring Strain: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation
The hamstring muscle


A hamstring strain happens when you overstretch, or pull, the muscles that run down the back of your thigh. It can happen when you exercise or lift something or if you're injured in an accident.

You may feel pain and tenderness that's worse when you move your injured leg. The back of your thigh may be swollen and bruised. If you have a bad strain, you may not be able to move your leg normally.

While a minor strain often heals well with rest and other treatment, a severe strain may require medical treatment. If a severe strain isn't treated, you may have long-lasting problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Rest your injured leg. Don't put weight on it for a day or two. If your doctor advises you to, use crutches to rest the leg.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the back of your thigh for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to stop swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Wrapping your thigh with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, since this can cause more swelling below the affected area.
  • Elevate your thigh on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Don't do anything that makes the pain worse. Return to your usual level of activity slowly.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe or increasing pain.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your injured leg.
  • You cannot move your injured leg.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter S922 in the search box to learn more about "Hamstring Strain: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.