A hamstring injury can be sudden and painful, and debilitate you from running for months. Then, just when you feel better, it goes again. But it is preventable, and treatable. The hamstring is the band of muscles that run down the back of your leg, from your buttock to the back of your knee. It is vital in bending and extending your legs, and therefore plays a key role in running. Injury causes and symptoms Many running injuries are repetitive strain injuries, which means the issue is slowly accumulated over time, such as with plantar fasciitis or tendinitis. This is not the case with a typical hamstring injury. The most common hamstring injuries are the result of sudden or powerful movements, like a jump or a sprint. The initial symptoms of a hamstring injury include: Sudden sharp pain in the back of your leg A popping sound An immediate limp or inability to walk properly Cross training for runners – what are the benefits? After the initial pain you may feel A tenderness Visible swelling Even visible bruising The leg may continue to feel weak, you may still have a limp Treatment First, rest and ice your hamstring. Do not try to go running, and even limit walking, until it feels better. Most hamstring injuries can be treated at home, but if it persists, visit a physio or medical professional. Once it feels better, return to excises, but not too much too soon. Rushing back to running will cause a relapse. But spending too long away from exercising means the hamstring can shorten or weaken, thus also increasing the risk of injury. Gentle stretching, walking and cycling are good initial exercises to ease yourself back into running without risking injury. Prevention Preventing an injury, or at least preventing it happening again, is the best-case scenario. There are simple ways to prevent the injury: Warm up properly. Do not launch straight into a sprint without a warm up. Think of your muscles like rubber – if they are cold, they are brittle and can snap; if they are warm, they are malleable. Mobility and flexibility training will ensure that your hamstring will not stretch to breaking point. You can do yoga or Pilates or more dynamic mobility movements to prevent injury. Strength training is a great way to prevent all sorts of injuries. Include squats and other movements to strengthen your hamstrings. Imbalances in strength between your legs can also increase the risk of injury, so be sure to do single-leg exercises. Plyometric training is strength training but with a specific focus on fast and powerful movements. Cross training to get fit but rest your running mechanisms by doing other sports like cycling and swimming. All these preventive measures not only make you more resilient to injury but will also make you a better runner.