A hamstring strain is a tear of one of the three hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh. Many athletes just rest until they can play again. However, there are products which speed up recovery.
The best products for treating hamstring strains depend on the stage of hamstring rehabilitation you are at.
Hamstring products for the acute phase
If you think you have torn your hamstring then the most important thing to do is apply the PRICE principles of protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation as soon as possible.
Cold therapy wraps
These apply cold therapy and compression to the injured muscle. This helps prevent further internal bleeding and reduces pain.
In addition to simple ice cubes wrapped in a wet tea towel, there are a huge variety of cold therapy products available online. My personal preference is an elastic wrap containing a reusable cold gel pack. The gel packs are convenient to store in the freezer until needed and you can adjust the compression to suit.
Hamstring compression sleeve
During the acute phase, it is important to apply compression, even when you are not applying ice/cold therapy. Wear a thigh compression sleeve all the time.
There are various types available but at this stage a simple tube grip-type elastic bandage is ideal. Later in the rehabilitation program, a more substantial neoprene thigh support is more appropriate.
Lotions and rubs
Whilst massage is contraindicated during the acute phase (this means don’t do it!), you may be able to apply arnica-based muscle rubs lightly over the area. Cold gels also help reduce pain and inflammation as do ibuprofen-based topical gels.
Hamstring strain products for the rehabilitation phase
Once the acute phase of hamstring treatment has passed (normally when daily activities are pain-free) then I recommend the following products:
Hot & cold wrap
This is exactly the same product as the cold compression wrap recommended in the acute phase. However, it might be used to apply heat or alternate hot and cold.
These are excellent for early-stage hamstring exercises. Both specific hamstring curl-type exercises as well as more general activation and motion control exercises. They come in a variety of lengths, strengths and designs. Two or three different strength bands of about 2m are great. You can always double them up to increase resistance.
A neoprene thigh support provides protection and support for your hamstring muscles. Neoprene retains body heat which increases blood circulation and relaxes muscles. The more blood an injured muscle receives, the more nutrients it gets. As a result, healing and recovery are improved. Compression also protects and supports the muscle.
Using a foam roller regularly is like having a deep-tissue hamstring massage. It flushes blood through the muscle, and helps stretch and relax it. Use it daily and especially before training sessions as part of your normal training routine once you have recovered.
Kinesiology taping for hamstring strains either activates or deactivates hamstring muscles depending on how it is applied and the stage of rehabilitation you are at. Initially, you may want to deactivate the muscle to help it rest and heal. Later you may want to help activate the muscle and get it working again.