Ask Amy: How to Deal with a Pulled Muscle

As dancers gear up for year-end performances, the extra workload can take its toll. If you've pulled a hamstring, or are worried it might happen, read up on Amy's advice for proper healing.

A pulled hamstring—tears that occur in the muscle when the hamstring is suddenly overstretched or overloaded—needs to be taken seriously if you want to heal properly. I didn't take enough precautions when I pulled mine years ago, and my flexibility in that leg has never felt quite the same.


“Hamstring injuries can take a long time to heal due to the potential accompanying injury to the nervous system," says Andrea Zujko, PT, DPT, OCS, COMT, clinic manager of Westside Dance Physical Therapy in New York City. Recovery time depends on the severity of the strain, and Zujko discourages self-diagnosing. “A physical therapist can help you more clearly diagnose the injury and develop a prognosis and plan to return to dance."

One thing is certain—don't stretch a pulled hamstring too soon. For the first five days (longer for serious strains), don't dance or stretch. Do use ice and compression during the first 72 hours. Then, you can gradually start gently releasing the soft tissue using a tennis ball, Zujko says, followed by range of motion exercises and pain-free stretches, including this one: Lie on your back with both knees bent, keeping a neutral spine and pelvis. Raise the injured bent leg to a tabletop position, with the angle of both your thigh and lower leg at 90 degrees. Holding on to your thigh, gently straighten and bend the leg through a pain-free range (keeping the foot relaxed and the leg parallel). Do 5 sets of 10 throughout the day when you're warm. As your hamstring heals, you can progress to a sustained, passive stretch, using a yoga belt. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, doing 5 repetitions two to three times a day.

Isometric strengthening exercises can help, too, Zujko says. For example, sit comfortably on a chair, keeping the knees at a 90-degree angle. Using 5 to 10 percent of your strength, gently press your heel into the floor to create a light contraction in the hamstring, holding for 5 seconds; repeat 10 times.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

The History of Pointe Shoes: The Landmark Moments That Made Ballet's Signature Shoe What It Is Today

Pointe shoes, with their ability to elevate a dancer both literally and metaphorically to a superhuman realm, are the ultimate symbol of a ballerina's ethereality and hard work. For students, receiving a first pair of pointe shoes is a rite of passage. The shoes carry an almost mystical allure: They're an endless source of lore and ritual, with tips, tricks and stories passed down over generations.

The history of pointe shoes reveals how a delicately darned slipper introduced in the 1820s has transformed into a technical tool that offers dancers the utmost freedom onstage today.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

How Coming Back to Ballet After Years Away Has Saved Me During the Pandemic Shutdown

I was 4 years old when I took my first ballet lesson. My mom had dressed me in a pink leotard with matching tights, skirt and slippers. She drove me on a Saturday morning to a ballet academy in downtown Caguas, the town in Puerto Rico where I grew up. I don't remember much from the first lesson, but I do recall the reverence. My teacher Mónica asked the class if someone wanted to volunteer to lead. She was surprised I—the new girl—was the one to raise my hand.

I made up most of the steps, mimicking the ballerinas I had seen on TV and videos. At one point, Mónica stepped in and asked me to lead the class in a bow. I followed her directions and curtseyed in front of the mirror with one leg behind me and a gentle nod. I looked up to find myself in awe of what I had just done.

This was the same feeling I had when, after years away from dance, I finished my first YouTube ballet class at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
La'Toya Princess Jackson, Courtesy MoBBallet

Join Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet for Its 2020 Virtual Symposium

Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, founded in 2015 by writer and activist Theresa Ruth Howard to preserve and promote the stories of Black ballet dancers, is offering three weekends of interactive education and conversation this month through its 2020 Virtual Symposium. The conference, titled "Education, Communication, Restoration," encourages participants to engage in candid discussions concerning racial inequality and social justice in ballet. While it is a space that centers on Blackness, all are welcome. Held August 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28, MoBBallet's second annual symposium will allow dancers to receive mentorship and openly speak about their personal experiences in a safe and empowering environment.

The first event, For Us By Us (FUBU) Town Hall, is a free community discussion on August 14 from 3:30–4:30 pm EDT via Zoom, followed by a forum for ballet leadership. The town hall format encourages active engagement (participants can raise their hands and respond in real time), but the registration invoice also contains a form for submitting questions in advance. The following discussions, forums and presentations include topics like company life as a Black dancer, developing personal activism, issues of equity and colorism in ballet companies, and more. Tickets range from free to $12 for each 60- to 80-minute event.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks