The hamstring is a group of three muscles in the back of the thigh that run from the hip to the knee. You use these muscles for walking, running, and jumping. They extend the hip and flex the knee at the beginning of each step. 

Unfortunately, the hamstring is prone to injury, specifically among those who engage in sports that involve running or sprinting. They are vulnerable to developing tightness in these muscles. Activities that involve a lot of stop-and-start movements like dancing and running may also cause tightness in your hamstrings. 

Since everyone uses the hamstrings in everyday movements, it is important to keep these muscles loose. In fact, tight hamstrings are more susceptible to strain or tearing. 

What Causes Tight Hamstring Problems?

Whether you are an Olympic runner or an ordinary person walking to work everyday, you are likely to experience some degree of hamstring tightness at some point in time. Common sense will tell you that when a muscle feels tight, simply stretch it! That’s true but there is more to it than that. 

The proper way to address the problem is to determine what caused it in the first place. Here are the most common causes of hamstring tightness that we encounter at PhysioCore.

Protective Tension – This is easily noticeable if you have an excessive anterior pelvic tilt as it puts a significant amount of stretch on the hamstrings, which are constantly engaged to prevent you from suffering from extension-related back pain. This problem is often seen in athletes and women (i.e. they have greater anterior pelvic tilt than men).

Neural Tension – When you feel tightness in your hamstrings, it does not always mean that the muscles are the source of the problem. As a matter of fact, it is common for people with lumbar disc disorders to experience tightness, numbness/tingling, or radicular pain in the lower extremities, especially the hamstrings. Nerve entrapment, most commonly the sciatic, may also present symptoms.

Previous Hamstring Strain– Once you incur a hamstring injury such as a strain, the affected area may never be the same in terms of tissue density – whether it’s the muscles themselves or the surrounding soft tissues. A previous injury can leave you feeling ‘tight’ in the back of your thigh.

Acute Hamstring Strain or Tendinitis/Tendinosis – Your hamstrings may feel tight because you may actually have an injury. It could be a hamstring strain or tendinitis/tendinosis. The latter differ in terms of time. Tendinitis is an acute condition wherein inflammation is caused by an injury to a tendon. In contrast, tendinosis is a chronic condition triggered by repetitive trauma or an injury that has yet to heal. 

What are Some Stretches to Loosen Tight Hamstring?

Stretches are one of the best and easiest ways to treat tight hamstrings. You can do them almost anywhere and require little or no equipment at all.

Standing Hamstring Stretch

  • Stand with your back in a neutral position.
  • Cross your right foot in front of your left.
  • Bend at the waist and slowly lower your head to your right knee.
  • Be sure to keep your back and knees straight to avoid hunching over your leg.
  • Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

Repeat with your other leg, and again with both legs 2-3 times.

Seated Hamstring Stretch I

  • Sit with your back straight, and your right leg extended. Bend your left leg, so the sole of your foot rests against your thigh.
  • Slowly reach toward your right ankle while keeping your neck, back, and knee straight.
  • Once you feel the stretch in the back of your thigh, hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.

Repeat with your left leg and then again with each leg a couple more times.

Seated Hamstring Stretch II

  • Get two chairs and position them facing each other.
  • Sit in one chair with your right leg extended onto the other chair.
  • Slowly lean forward until you feel a stretch in your hamstring.
  • Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.

Repeat with your left leg and then again with each leg a couple more times.

Lying Hamstring Stretch

  • Lie flat on a mat with your legs fully stretched out.
  • To stretch your right leg, hold the back of the right knee with both hands then pull the leg up toward your chest.
  • Slowly straighten the knee until it feels it is stretching.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.

Repeat with your left leg then repeat with each leg two to three times.

How to Prevent Tight Hamstring Problems

There are certain things that you can do to prevent tightness before it starts. You may also get in touch with us at PhysioCore for conditioning exercises that may help. Here are a few tips to remember.

Always warm-up before engaging in any sport or other strenuous activities. At least 10 minutes of walking or light jogging can help prevent hamstring tightness. Regular stretching before and after your activities will also help prevent tightness. Try to do your stretching routine three to five minutes before and after your sports or activities. Always eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water to fuel your hamstrings.

When to See a Physiotherapist

You can schedule an appointment with our physiotherapist if your hamstrings are chronically tight and painful. Pain that persists may be a sign of injury. During your initial appointment, our physiotherapist will inquire about your medical history and the activities or sports you engage in. We may also conduct tests to assess your hamstrings.

Our physical therapist will then walk you through the different stretches, exercises, and other treatment approaches that are specific to your needs. You will also be instructed to incorporate the stretching techniques into your daily routine. The number of appointments will depend on how fast the tightness can be resolved.

When to See a Massage Therapist

If you’d rather not massage your hamstrings by yourself, make an appointment with our licensed massage therapist. Massage can help relieve a variety of ailments from stress to pain to muscle tightness. The main objective of massage therapy is to relax your hamstrings and stimulate blood flow, which will help release any tightness and tension.

Takeaway

Don’t let tight hamstrings slow you down. With some regular stretching, you can keep your muscles loose and always ready for action. If you feel pain, tightness, or have other concerns, don’t hesitate to call or visit us at PhysioCore. Our multi-disciplinary rehab therapy clinic boasts the latest modalities and some of the most seasoned and highly trained medical practitioners in Ontario