I always dread it.
I’m treating an athlete with a hamstring strain, and I have to pass on the negative news – hamstring problems are notorious for their high recurrence rate. Even though your muscle may be healed and tests show that you’ve regained normal strength, once you’re back participating in sports or fitness activities there’s a fair chance your problem will recur.
In fact, one study illustrated the limitations of the standard rehabilitation protocol for hamstring injuries – stretching and strengthening of the injured muscle. Unfortunately, 6 out of 11 injured athletes using this rehab strategy for their hamstrings had their problem recur within 2 weeks of returning to normal activities. Those aren’t good odds.
Fortunately, this research article also proposed an alternative. A second group of athletes followed a different rehab protocol that also included practice of integrated movements and overall trunk strengthening. The subjects in the second group fared much better – none of them had a recurrence in the first two weeks of returning to their sport.
The hamstring may be one of the trickiest muscles to rehab successfully, but the same pattern can be true for other body areas too. You can’t just focus narrowly on the problem muscle and expect it to function effectively as part of an overall movement pattern.
How can you incorporate integrated movement and trunk stabilization exercises into your fitness routine?
Start with some of the basics: the plank pose, the side plank, balance and weight-shift exercises, and the like. Another excellent exercise that specifically trains proper hamstring integration is Irmgard Bartenieff’s forward pelvic shift. Call me for specific information about that exercise or to suggest others appropriate to your situation.