What is a Pulled Hamstring?

What is a Pulled Hamstring?

A diagram showing the different hamstring muscles

A pulled hamstring is one of the most common leg injuries. The hamstring is not a single muscle, but rather a group of three muscles that runs down the back of the thigh and allows you to bend your knee. A hamstring pull occurs when you strain one of these three muscles, which most frequently happens during athletic activity.

Torn vs. pulled hamstring

A pulled hamstring is also known as a strain. Hamstring strains can be mild, causing some discomfort with activity, or more severe, causing some bruising and pain with activity. Recovery time for a pulled hamstring depends on the degree of the injury—small strains can take a few weeks to heal, whereas more severe hamstring strains may take a month or more.

If your hamstring is completely torn, healing can take several months and surgery may be needed.

Signs & Symptoms of a Pulled Hamstring


A pulled hamstring often presents with a sudden, sharp pain in the hamstring during physical activity. It’s also common to feel a popping or tearing sensation followed by tightness and continued pain.

Depending on how severe the injury is, you may also experience one or more of these pulled hamstring symptoms:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Reduced muscular strength
  • Reduced range of motion

What Causes Pulled Hamstrings?


A pulled hamstring is caused by stretching one of the hamstring muscles beyond its limit. This most often occurs during athletic activities, especially those that involve running and jumping.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

While anyone can experience a pulled hamstring, athletes are at a much higher risk of this injury. Soccer players, dancers, track runners, and basketball players, for example, are all more at risk for hamstring injuries. Additional risk factors for hamstring injuries include:

  • Poor flexibility
  • Prior hamstring injury
  • Inadequate warm-up or stretching before physical activity
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Fatigue



There are several ways to lower your risk of sustaining a hamstring injury. This injury is less likely to happen if you:

  • Warm up properly before athletic activity
  • Maintain a conditioning program to retain muscle strength
  • Maintain a stretching routine to increase flexibility
  • Get proper rest before participating in athletic activity
Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Pulled Hamstring Care

If you’re experiencing pulled hamstring symptoms, you can trust the experts at NewYork-Presbyterian to assess and diagnose your hamstring injury. Our physicians can guide you through recovery and help you reduce your risk of a hamstring injury in the future.