The Missing Link in All Kinds of Pain!!
Tight hamstrings have been linked to all kinds of leg, low back and groin pain. These three hamstring muscles in the back of your leg can be quite the trouble makers when it comes to wreaking havoc on your everyday comfort or your athletic training! There is a FREE pdf you can print or download at the bottom of this page, with stretches particular to tension in the hamstrings.
Tight and painful hamstrings are frequently part to blame for:
-Low Back Pain-Burning Pain in the Upper Leg
-Lower Back Hip Pain
-Gluteus Maximus Pain
-Deep Aching Pain at the Sit-Bones
-SI Joint Pain, or Pain Along Sacrum
-Back Pain Lower Right Side
-Pain Just Inside the Sit-Bones Close to the Groin
-Aching Down the Middle of the Back of the Leg
-Pain in the Back of the Leg, Just Above the Knee
-Pain on the Sides of the Knee
Who would have thought that these muscles could be responsible for so much pain?! The issue is that all three of these muscles run from your sit bones, down to below your knee, one on the outside of your knee and two on the inside. They are super strong, and while we are sitting all day at the computer, on the phone with people, sleeping with our legs bent in all different ways, standing a lot, or leaning over a lot, they are constantly engaged, or getting shortened.
Frequently, we will have a runner come into our clinic with
pain when they run
, but the problem isn't the running necessarily, but their sleeping position, or the fact that they sit all day at their desk.
You see, they may be sleeping in the 'Figure 4' position, with one knee kicked out to the side, with their sole of their foot close to the inside of the other leg, which is shortening those muscles all night long while they are sleeping. Shortened hamstrings means Tight Hamstrings. This position also really shortens their lateral rotators, under their glutes, which can cause lower back hip pain and gluteus maximus pain! If we don't give these tight muscles (and the connective tissue around them) a chance to lengthen and flexible, our pain pattern will likely worsen.
In our experience, tight hamstrings are the single most missed factor in chronic
lower back pain
. This is because people treating low back pain go straight for the spot of pain, which doesn't include these great big strong muscles and tendons, pulling on the sit bones and causing the pelvis to torque slightly. We have helped hundreds of people with chronic low back pain who have seen multiple other massage and physical therapists, and many of them NEVER addressed our client's tight hamstrings. These muscles, along with the hip flexors will cause an incredible amount of pressure on the muscles of the pelvis and low back.
We have hundreds of clients who found relief with their lower back pain they had suffered with for years, even after surgery-laminectomies and fusions! These surgeries frequently don't take care of the pressure these muscles are causing on the low back to begin with, so frequently the pain returns after surgery...besides the fact that the scar tissue then causes scar tissue and can reduce movement in the tissue surrounding the vertebrae.
SO, if your discomfort involves lower back hip pain, gluteus maximus pain, or even aching down the back of your leg, you may want to try a hamstring stretch or massage to loosen up those sinister tight hamstrings and connective tissue that wraps around all the muscles...it may keep your 'back from going out' under pressure!
The hamstring stretch above, which I suggest to nearly every client with low back discomfort (and do myself nearly every day) is putting my ankle over the arm of the sofa, and keeping your back straight bring your shoulders toward the wall in front of you. You don't want to bend at the waist or bring your shoulders down to your knees, this won't stretch the hamstrings as much as keeping your back straight. Many people say NOT to do any forward folds with low back pressure, but the pattern won't ever be corrected, if you can't open up the body to a new position...it will continue to get shorter and shorter.
I personally hold for a full two minutes to allow the stretch to really work, and I only stretch to the point of comfort. The stretching sheet below is what we do with all our clients with chronic low back issues.
Stretching is NOT a 'no pain, no gain' experience!! Please be respectful of your limits, regardless of how little or how much you may be able to stretch. You can download the stretching form below, so you can do them at home. Sometimes stretching is not enough, because the restrictions in the muscles have been present so long. When this is the case, it's necessary to do some deep massage work.
The stretches I do in coordination with this one, as Shawna is demonstrating in our beautiful Lory State Park in order to address the balance factor are hip flexor and quadriceps stretch. I do a kneeling lunge, to stretch the hip flexors of the back leg, and the typical quad stretch (not shown), when you bring your heel to your butt, to stretch the muscles in the upper part of the front of your leg...these are also GREAT stretches if you are experiencing knee pain, since they tend to take the pressure off that joint.
To access our free download of lower body stretches, which also help the low back, hips and sacral area, you can register for our newsletter. You will gain instant access to the lower body stretches as well as a healthy workstation checklist!
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Information on Patellar Tendonitis
Piriformis Syndrome-A Serious Pain in the Butt!
Relief for Plantar Fasciitis
Fort Collins Massage Therapist Page
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