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Torn Hamstring

Guest LisaB

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About two months ago I started noticing pain in my hamstring. At first I kept dancing with at lot of extra stretching, thinking it was just a pulled muscle, however when it didn't heal I did the no dancing thing for 2 weeks. When I returned to dance, I found I had a lot of pain with stretching and kicking higher than 90 degrees. I've been doing physical therapy for 3 weeks now, and with my very slow progress, the medical opinion is that is isn't a bad pull, but a partial tear.


I am faithfully doing my exercises, and now I can kick to 95 degrees and have less pain, but I still feel very limited in my ballet. The absolute worst pain, although it's better than when I started, is when I do a straddle split stretch. I sit in my straddle split, which never was great and now is even worse, and when I stretch forward or to the affected side it is pretty painful. My therapist has given me alterative exercises for my hamstrings which are less painful, but they haven't helped my straddle stretches.


I am posting on this board, and not nutrition and health, because I am curious what exercises others have done when they have had hamstring injuries. My PT is very good, but of course it is unusual for her to see someone who's goal is to kick over 90 degrees. Seeing a dance PT is out of the question because I'd have to travel pretty far (Boston is 5 hours away). Luckily I'm healed enough that re-injury isn't too much of a concern, but it would be nice if I could speed up the recovery process.

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Hi lisaB,

Ouch! It brings back memories of my poor torn hamstring. All I remember is it being so very tight for absolutely ages. It took a lot of tender care and careful stretching.


You keep mentioning 'kicks' and i don't think this is going to be helpful in healing your hamstring. Kicks are not controllable enough, especially if you are recovering from an injury, and will just aggravate the injury, not help.


I would say, a lot of gentle but consistent work with a Theraband, and do developés and very slow grand battements. No snatching or sudden movements.


You are going to have to be extremely patient, and don't rush ahead of your body. Yes, you could the straddle split before, but now you won't have that same mobility.

After a muscular tear, the muscle fibres 'knit' back up, but leave scar tissues (this scar tissue is not as flexible as muscle fibres), which is why you get stiffness, and it is why massage is great, as it tenderises the musle fibres enough to loosen them up and reknit and promote healing of the muscle in the correct way.

If you want to speed up the process, massage, either administered yourself or by a professional is a good idea, It costs $40 for an hour maybe. Together with lots of nice hot baths, followed by massage of the area with some muscle rub or oils. Gentle stretching, together with slow massage of the muscles while you are in the stretch, and slow developés to a height where you are not feeling extreme pain. If you get the 'worst intense pain' ever, then STOP. :)




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Thanks for the massage idea. I've had massages before, but just for relaxation, I didn't even think of it for my injury. I have been limiting my kicks to 90 degrees and try not to push it to the point where I feel pain. No pain no gain doesn't apply here. I've found it actually takes more control to limit the height of the kick. I do really like the developpe idea as well. I'll give this all a try.

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Hi Lisa,


It sounds like I have the same problem on my left leg. I have been seeing a sports MD who also treats dancers. He thinks stregthening and stretching the hamstring muscle will help it heal. He didn't give me any specific exercises other than to take class and use the hamstring machine at the gym.


Like you, I have limited mobility and depending on the exercise, a lot of pain. It's very frustrating because there doesn't seem to be any real course of treatment and too much rest only makes matters worse.


I have had long-term issues with my left hamstring and in the past have tried PT and massage. Sometimes there's improvement but the problem never seems to go away. I would also like to know if anyone has any other suggestions.

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I have new exercise my physical therapist taught me. It is doing wonders over this week. Maybe it might work for you too Amathyst.


I lie on my back with both legs straight and the therapist (or my husband) lifts my leg until I start to stretch. Then we hold it there for 30 seconds (typical ballet stretch I know) but then I contract my hamstring as if I were lowering my leg and he applies resistance so that the leg doesn't move. We hold for 10 seconds. Then he stretches me a little further. The key is not to stretch until the point of pain, just to where you feel the stretch. In 1 week I have improved my flexibilty 10 degrees. My therapist explained that the alternating contraction and stretch allowes the muscle to fatigue so that it isn't as tight, just more relaxed. Since it's working and not painful, I won't complain. :offtopic: She also said that if you don't have a husband handy, you could rest your leg on a corner wall.


By the way, Xena, I have an appointment for a massage in November. We'll see.

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My chiropractor and ballet teacher both recommend that type of stretching as well.


I spent a lot of time thinking I had pulled a hamstring muscle (and it still acts up once and a while though I can manage it better now and have far more mobility). I also had pain with that stretch where you sit with your legs straddled and then bend over to put your chest on the floor.. The entire hip hurt--felt like there was inflammation throughout the entire joint, though the concentration of stiffness appeared to be in the hamstring. I couldn't do pied dans la main or a split at all on that leg.


The pain started after class, when I was stretching my splits. The strange thing is that it didn't hurt when I was in the split. I first noticed the pain in my hip when I came out of the spit. When I had pulled my hamstring before a few years ago (pied dans la main not warmed up enough), I felt the pain in my hamstring immediately during the stretch.


I've been doing the type of stretching you describe by pulling the affected leg straight front, and a little crossed over, very rotated. My chiro thought it was a tight glute that was affecting everything else (after unsuccesfully trying to treat the hamstring itself with massage and ultrasound) Bingo! Once I started stretching and getting massage on the glute, the hamstring and hip pain went away.


Sorry my explanation isn't very technical. I'm bad about asking for details. All I know is it worked. I just think it's interesting that you can feel pain in one area, but the problem lies someplace else. It's good you're working with a PT. Those people really can help get to the bottom of things.


One thing that helps with that kind of stretching is to do a big exhale when you come to the stretching part.

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My only advice, from my experience with a partial hamstring tear, is to not get frustrated with the slow progress... it took about 6-7 months to totally heal. The improvement was slow, but it was quite steady. I'll second Xena's advice on hot baths and massage, but I also found that alternating hot and cold (heating pad and ice pack) for about 20 minutes at a time, over the course of 1 to 1 1/2 hours as soon as I got home from class seemed to help. Feel better, and keep us updated!

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Skip, Thanks for the reminder to exhale. I often notice that when I do my straddle stretches I hold my breath. It's like I'm anticipating the problem. I've started a taking a yoga class once a week, just to re-teach myself to focus on breathing while I stretch.


Sulan, Thanks for the personal experience. The slow recover (it's almost 3 months now) is what's frustrating me the most. It's always nice to know somebody else has been through it before. I'll keep you informed.

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Unfortunately, the keyword in hamstring injury is patience. :wacko: I know, it's really hard, but the thing is, it can't be forced or pushed. You just have to allow it the time to heal and not take it to the point of pain.


Lisa, I would hold off on the "straddle" for a while. And, as Xena said, don't KICK! Lift your leg, somewhat gently please. Grand battements are really the worst thing you could do, IMO.

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Guest Lizzie 37

Bless your heart, your letter made me flinch! Hamstring tears really require patience and listening to your body. Anything which puts momentum in the equation is a potential problem. As previously stated, controlled movements are what is needed. Remember, unless you are on bed rest, your hamstrings are being used to some degree. Your challenge is to aid healing and minimize decreased range of motion due to scar tissue. All the afore mentioned treatments, ice, heat, massage, help to some degree. Make sure your protein intake is adequate. Finally, be alert to compensations your body may be making as a result of the injury. It's not uncommon to develop a secondary problem as a result of compensatory shifts/ adjustments. Best of luck

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I did something to my hamstring a few years ago, never got it diagnosed as a pull, tear, or whatever, but it kept me out of dance for a month, and it occassionally bothers me from time to time now. If I don't warm up enough, I can reinjure it, which requires about a week of rest and icing it. I'm sure you are but be sure to be extra conscious of warming up your hamstring!


You can also try a heating pad to allow it to loosen up before class.

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