Are Your Hamstrings Actually Tight?
Many people that are seen in clinic, whether they are an athlete, manual worker or desk worker complain of chronic hamstring tightness and no matter how much time they spend stretching, the tightness will just not go away!
Why waste your time doing the same thing over and over without getting any results? It’s the definition of madness!
If all the stretching, foam rolling and massage isn’t helping to alleviate your tightness, then are your hamstrings really even tight?
A common question I get from my clients:
“But I can’t touch my toes and my hamstring range of motion is really poor- surely they must be tight?”
No, not necessarily! There are a range of factors that could be causing this.
Hamstring tightness is one of the most commonly misunderstood postural complaints, and this blog post will help you better understand what is really going on!
1. You Have an Anterior Pelvic Tilt
An anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is when the pelvis is tilted forwards relative to the normal neutral position.
This most often is caused by shortening and tightness of your hip flexor muscles, and weakness of your gluteal complex and abdominals which are often a result of frequent sitting.
As the pelvis is pulled into an anterior tilt, this places undue tension onto the hamstrings. Therefore your hamstrings are actually in a stretched position. It is common for the hamstrings to be constantly ‘switched on’ to attempt to pull the pelvis back into a neutral position.
Have a look in the mirror is your lower back excessively curved?
So it could be the complete opposite- your hamstrings are WEAK!
If this is the case- doing a lot of stretching probably isn’t a very good idea!
2. You Have Neural Tension
Just because your hamstrings feel tight, doesn’t mean that they are the source of your problem.
Neural tension from the sciatic nerve can often present as tightness in the hamstrings.
We all know that muscles contract, stretch and move, but did you know that your nerve also move?
This is known as neurodynamics.
Inability of your nerves to move freely may arise as a result of previous back issues, previous hip, pelvis or back injuries. Nerves can become sensitised in certain circumstances such as when pre-existing damage has occurred or when there is inflammation.
Poor neurodynamics may prevent you from having a full range of motion available at the hamstrings.
If you have numbness or pins and needles in either leg, you should really get this checked out by a health care professional.
3. Hamstring Tendinopathy
Not all pain is caused by tightness or tension. Your hamstrings might feel tight and/or painful because you have developed a tendinopathy (an inflammatory condition of the hamstring tendon). This commonly develops when tissue loading exceeds tissue tolerance, usually caused by frequent overuse and lack of recovery.
All in all, the treatment and rehabilitation approaches to your hamstring ‘tightness’ are dependent on what is the root cause of your symptoms.
Most commonly, your posterior chain muscles are weak, so you will be required to strengthen!
4. Your Calves Are Tight
Your muscles aren't independent. They have direct relationships with other muscles.
They calves, for example "cross bridge" with the hamstrings. In other words they are linked.
If your calves are tight, it may be causing a pull on the hamstrings which is giving you the sensation of tightness.
Try foam rolling and stretching your calves, in combination with some eccentric calf raises and see how that affects your hamstring "tightness".
5. You're Not Stretching The Right Hamstring
Even if your hamstrings are tight. You might not be stretching all of them.
Yes there is more than 1 hamstring muscle... 6 in fact (3 each leg)
Most people only ever target the middle hamstring with traditional stretching techniques.
Target the inner and outer hamstrings too!
Grab a resistance band and wrap it around your foot. Keep the knee straight and pull your leg up whilst laying on your back. Now pull the leg across the body and away from the body to see where feels tightest.
Foam roll the quadriceps and hip flexors (2-5 mins)
Foam roll the calves (2-5 minutes)
Sciatic Flossing (3 x 30 reps) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMbKv94Bu_U
Banded Hamstring Stretching (2-5 mins)
Glute Bridges (3 x 12-15)
Single Leg Body Weight Deadlifts (3 x 10)
Eccentric Calf Raises 3 x (12-15)
You're welcome =)
Danny Baker MSc BSc Hons GSR
Peak Performance Therapy Ltd