Referred Hamstring Pain


Referred hamstring pain is pain at the back of the thigh which originates from the lower back, sacroiliac joint or buttock muscles. Here we explain the causes and treatment of referred hamsting pain.

What is referred pain?

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.

  • Symptoms include pain which may be sudden onset but can also be of gradual onset.
  • Referred pain is usually less severe than a hamstring strain, although twinges may be felt.
  • The slump test is used to asses tension in the sciatic nerve. If referred pain is present then the test is likely to be positive, but not in all cases.

What causes referred hamstring pain?

Prolapsed disc (slipped disc)

A slipped disc is a general term used to describe what is actually a prolapsed disc in the spine. The intervertebral discs are round pads of cartilage which sit between each spinal vertebra (bone). The middle of the disc contains the nucleus pulposus. This is a fluid type substance which herniates out of the disc and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Read more on slipped disc.

Torn muscles

A muscle strain in the lower back may cause swelling, or muscles spasm. This also can impinge the sciatic nerve resulting pain pain radiating into the back of the leg. The patient will be likely to have a history of lower back pain if the pain is coming from the lumbar spine.

Read more on back muscle strains.

Piriformis syndrome

Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle impinges on the sciatic nerve. Other lateral rotator muscle or the gluteals may also cause referred hamstring pain.

Read more on Piriformis syndrome.


  • Treatment for referred hamstring pain involves identifying and treating the underlying cause.
  • Deep tissue massage to the lower back, buttocks, and hamstrings can be beneficial in loosening the area and restoring full function.
  • Stretching the muscles of the lower back and buttocks may be helpful.

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