There you are, minding your own business on an invigorating run, when suddenly, disaster strikes. It's a hamstrings cramp and because the pain is so bad, you decide to resign yourself to a life of couch-sitting. While a hamstrings cramp can definitely hurt, the good news is that it doesn't last long and it won't completely derail your fitness routine, particularly if you take some simple steps to treat it.
Stop whatever you're doing. Running on cramped hamstrings will probably just make the pain worse.
Stretch the affected hamstrings, holding your leg in the stretched position until the pain begins to subside. If you can sit, park yourself and stretch both legs in front of you. Hinge at the waist until you feel a pull in your hamstrings and hold the position until the cramp goes away. If you can't sit, find something to steady yourself with and bend at the knee, catching your foot with your hand just behind your butt. Hold until the cramp starts to subside.
Massage the cramped hamstrings with your hands. You'll probably be able to find a knot with your fingers -- knead it until the pain starts to subside. Or, if you've got an awesome running partner, ask that she give your hamstrings a massage if you can't.
Apply heat to your hamstrings. The American Osteopathic Association suggests putting heat on tight and tense muscles and then cold on tender muscles. Use heat to further loosen the cramp and then apply cold to reduce after-cramp pain and swelling.
Prevent cramps from cramping your style by conditioning your hamstrings with regular strength-training, stretching your hamstrings before each run or exercise session and drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration. That way, your hamstrings will be ready for tough exercise and will less likely leave you in pain. Also stretch after your workout.
- See your doc if the pain in your hamstrings doesn't subside in 24 hours. Cramps are usually short lived, although there may be a small amount of tenderness afterward. If your still feel shooting pain in your hamstrings after 24 hours, you might have strained the muscle. See your healthcare provider.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.