Hamstring tendonitis is swelling or tearing to one of the three hamstring tendons. It may cause pain around the knee and throughout the leg. Hamstring tendonitis may also lead to mobility impairment.

Tendonitis, or tendinitis, happens when a tendon either swells or sustains tiny tears. Tendonitis usually develops over time. For some people, however, it is a sudden injury. It is possible for tendonitis to get better with home treatment and gentle exercise, especially when people begin treatment early.

Hamstring tendonitis is an injury to one of the three hamstring tendons, which are part of the thick band of muscles and tendons called the hamstrings. The hamstring tendons connect the hamstring muscles to the pelvis, as well as to both lower leg bones.

As the hamstrings bend the knee as well as extend the hips, an injury to either the tendons or the muscle can cause knee pain or hip pain, as well as difficulty walking or bending the knee. People often develop tendonitis because of overuse.

Over time, especially with excessive use, the hamstring tendons can become inflamed and swollen, which is hamstring tendonitis. Runners, swimmers, cyclists, and people who perform other repetitive movements of the knees and legs are more vulnerable to hamstring tendonitis.

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The most common symptoms of hamstring tendonitis include:

  • pain in or close to the knee joint
  • pain that radiates up the thigh and possibly into the hip or pelvis
  • deep buttock pain
  • swelling in or around the knee or thigh
  • pain that gets worse with activity, especially repetitive motions
  • difficulty moving or bending the knee or intense pain when trying to walk or bend the knee

People are more likely to get hamstring tendonitis when they exercise with improper form, lift weights that are too heavy, or return to vigorous exercise after an extended period of being less active. Advancing age can also increase the risk of tendonitis.

Tendonitis sometimes resembles other conditions, such as bursitis, which is inflammation of the sac of fluid that lubricates a joint. Bursitis in the knee can cause intense knee pain and trouble moving the knee, much like hamstring tendonitis. Arthritis, a chronic joint condition, may also cause knee pain.

People who suspect that they have tendonitis should see a doctor for a diagnosis. They will diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan.

Tendonitis treatment is divided into two primary timelines: short-term and long-term.

Immediate treatment

The first goal of treatment is to prevent the injury from becoming worse. A person can rest the tendon by avoiding repetitive activities, especially the activity that caused the injury. They can also try the following home management strategies:

  • Rest: The tendon will heal better if a person does not aggravate the injury with further movement. Avoid use for 48 to 72 hours while the tendon rests.
  • Ice: Ice reduces blood flow to the tendon, which can reduce inflammation and pain. Icing can be done 10 minutes at a time with 20-minute breaks. This can be repeated a few times each day to ease pain.
  • Massage: Target the area around the knee as well as the thigh and hip. Doing this can ease pain and muscle tension. Make sure a massage therapist knows about the potential injury before the session begins.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods: Although resting the tendon is important, becoming more sedentary can increase muscle tension and cause pain in other muscles and tendons.
  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications: These drugs include ibuprofen, which can help manage pain.

It can take several weeks for home remedies to help with symptoms. Most people will see some symptom improvement within a week. Full recovery can take longer.

There is some thought that too much rest stiffens joints and hinders recovery. Specific guided activity can strengthen the tendon and aid in healing. There is also thought that anti-inflammatory medication can hinder the bodies natural healing process.

If you are very active or an athlete you should speak with your doctor about the best regimen of recovery for you.

If symptoms worsen or do not show any improvement within a few days, a person should seek treatment from a doctor.

Long-term healing

Tendonitis is often a chronic injury that comes and goes. Identifying the triggers of tendonitis can help with managing the condition.

If home treatment does not work, the pain is very severe, or tendonitis keeps returning, a doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. In some cases a doctor may inject the tendon with corticosteroids guided by ultrasound, but this is less common.

This injection does not cure the injury, but it can provide relief for several weeks. In some cases, a doctor may recommend surgery to treat chronic tendonitis.

Physical therapy helpful for acute and chronic tendonitis and can be important in the acute phase of healing. Those who have had tendonitis surgery may need several months of physical therapy.

Physical therapy can also help with chronic pain, help people regain strength and mobility, and it may sometimes even reduce the need for surgery.

It is important to talk to a doctor before doing exercises for hamstring tendinitis and to avoid exercises that make the pain worse, which may further damage the tendon.

Stretching can also make the injury worse and may slow recovery. While flexing the muscles might seem helpful, it can worsen tears and injury.

Some exercises that may be beneficial include:

  • Walking: Walking engages the muscles and tendons of the hamstrings, but it is not as hard on the joints as running.
  • Swimming and water aerobics: Swimming and water aerobics can keep the hamstrings engaged without the high impact and potential pain that accompanies running and similar activities.
  • Strength training: A person with tendonitis should focus on strengthening the tendon and muscles of the hamstring in order to prevent reinjury.

Four helpful strength exercises

Isometric hamstring flex: Sit on the ground, and extend both legs in front. Raise knees slightly to a comfortable angle, around 30 degrees. Flex the toes of the injured toward the face, and hold for 5 seconds. Relax for 5 seconds, and repeat.

Single-leg windmill: Rest the uninjured leg on a chair or bench, bent at the knee. Keep the injured leg straight. Reach down toward the toes of the injured leg. Keep the back flat. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Nordic hamstring exercise: Kneel, and ask another person to restrain both feet. Slowly lean forward, keeping the back and hips aligned. Hold 15 seconds. Sit back to kneeling, and repeat.

Donkey kickbacks: Get down on knees and hands. Brace the body with palms directly under the chest. Slowly lift and extend the injured leg to the ceiling. Hold 15 seconds, and return injured leg to ground. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

Tendonitis tends to be a chronic condition. As a result, although home remedies and other treatments may help with tendonitis pain, surgery may offer the only cure.

Without treatment, tendonitis can become much worse, so it is important not to ignore signs of this condition. Pushing through pain when exercising can cause serious tendon injuries. Injuries to tendons can change how other muscles and tendons behave, increasing the risk of injury and pain in other areas of the body.

With prompt treatment, it is possible to minimize pain, promote healing, and reduce the risk of long-term injuries. A doctor can help a person decide on the right course of treatment.

Tendonitis can make exercise feel impossible, and it may interfere with everyday activities, such as walking and driving.

A person does not have to live with the pain of untreated tendonitis. Although this condition is sometimes chronic, many home and medical remedies can help with the pain and prevent the condition from getting worse.

People with hamstring tendonitis should see a doctor for symptom relief and help with developing a treatment plan.