Back Thigh / Hamstrings
Pain at the back of the thigh is known as posterior thigh pain and can be acute or sudden onset, or they may be chronic and develop gradually over time. It may also develop following an acute injury which fails to heal properly. The most common is a hamstring strain.
A hamstring strain or pulled hamstring is felt as a sudden sharp pain at the back of the thigh. This hamstring injury is very common and is graded depending on the severity of the damage. A mild strain can simply be tightness in the muscle but a severe strain involves a tear. Treatment involves immediate first aid including rest, ice, and compression followed by a full rehabilitation and exercise program.
Cramp is a painful contraction of the muscle that happens involuntarily. Leg cramps affect most people training hard at some point in time, with the hamstring muscles commonly affected. Although leg cramp recedes naturally, it can damage the muscle and make it sore and tender. Read more about the causes of cramp, its effects and how you can help it.
A hamstring muscle contusion involves a direct blow to the back of the thigh causing the muscle to be crushed against the bone. Pain and bruising at the point of impact are some of the main symptoms, but the condition of the leg should be monitored over several days to make a more accurate and specific diagnosis. Contusions are graded depending on their severity, which you can read more about here.
Hamstring tendinitis is inflammation of the hamstring tendon as it attaches to the ischial tuberosity at the top of the back of the thigh. This hamstring injury can be linked to overuse or a tear of the hamstring tendon which hasn't properly healed. Pain may come on gradually, especially after activity, and stretching the hamstrings is likely to be painful.
Pain in the hamstring region can originate from the lower back, sacroiliac joints or muscles of the buttocks such as the gluteus maximus and piriformis muscle. When hamstring pain originates from an injury to another part of the body, it is called a referred pain. Identifying the underlying injury and cause of the pain will help you to recover and get back training.
Tight hamstring muscles are common and most of the time will not cause a problem. However, they may be more prone to severe strains or contribute to other problems such as back pain and postural issues. Tight hamstrings mean you can't train and compete at full capacity as the muscles aren't fully healthy. Read more on the causes of this hamstring injury and what you can do to help it.
Hamstring pain is usually either an injury to the hamstring muscles or is being referred from somewhere else. Here are some less common causes of pain in the back of the thigh including hamstring tendinopathy, tendon avulsion and posterior thigh compartment syndrome.