The Impact of Tight Hamstrings
If you ever had a hamstring injury, then you are probably well aware just how frustrating and painful they can be. Not only is the pain continuous without much relief, but the healing and recuperation time can be a long drawn out process. Adding to that frustration is that the initial injury puts you at a higher risk for re-injury.
One of the most common reasons for the initial injury is due to having tight hamstrings to begin with. The good news though, is that there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of injury.
Quite often, you can prevent a hamstring injury simply by stretching and keeping them flexible, with decent range of motion. If you spend any time at sporting events, the gym, or in physical therapy, you will notice that most people spend a few minutes stretching out beforehand, and often after the event. This is to make sure their muscles are more flexible and ready to put to heavy use.
But, you don’t have to be an athlete to suffer a hamstring injury. Therefore, you shouldn’t just wait for a sporting or rigorous workout routine to take necessary steps in keeping the hamstring flexible.
What are the Hamstrings?
The hamstrings consist of both tendons and muscles, located in the back of the thigh area. If you have ever pulled one, you can most likely pinpoint precisely where they are from memory.
The hamstring tendons attach the back thigh muscles to the bone. And, the hamstring muscles are those that pull on the tendons. These muscles work to bend the knee, as well as straighten and extend the hip, and work the most during the more powerful movements such as jumping, climbing, or running.
Additional Risks of Tight Hamstrings
If your hamstrings are tight, it’s likely that your pelvic area and hips will rotate backward. This will cause the lower back to flatten unnaturally, leading to lower back pain…chronic if not corrected. Also, if you suffer with sacroiliac joint pain, it could be a result of your hamstrings not being flexible enough and tend to pull your pelvis out of a natural position.
Posture can also see a negative impact as a result of tight hamstrings.
Are Your Hamstrings Tight?
You might not be aware if your hamstrings are too tight, until a problem arises. However, there are several simple tests you can do in order to know before that happens. Take a look at just a few:
- Tripod Sign – While sitting on a chair, with your knees and hips at a 90° angle, straighten the knees out in front of you, without tilting your pelvis.
- Hamstrings Contracture Testing – Sitting on the floor, bend one knee upward with the foot flat on the floor. Your other leg should be out in front, straight. Holding onto your bent knee, reach towards the opposite foot. You should be able to reach your toes and keep your leg straight at the same time.
- Straight Leg Lift – Lying on your back on the floor, raise one leg up, without bending, until you reach 70-80° angle.
If you are not able to perform these tests, then your hamstrings are most likely tighter than they should be, placing you at higher risk for injury.
Correcting Tight Hamstrings
Depending on the severity of tightness, you might want to consider consulting a physical therapist or doctor. They can assess your condition, recommend exercises and treatment, as well as rule out any possible serious reason for the tightness.
Stretching is a common practice for relieving tight hamstrings…and so simple to do, anywhere. There are two types of stretching when it comes to hamstrings…dynamic and static. Both of these will improve the flexibility of the hamstrings.
Static stretching is when the stretch is held just past the muscles normal range of motion, for about 15-30 seconds each stretch, typically repeated for a total of 1 minute combined. This type of stretch is often performed post-activity, to help lengthen the muscles that were tightened as a result of the activity. Most people choose not to do static stretching prior to the activity due to its lengthening potentially diminishing your performance.
On the flip side, dynamic stretching is often performed prior to an activity. It is comprised of controlled and slow movement, mimicking the motion of the activity, without exceeding the range of motion. The purpose of dynamic stretching is to prepare your muscles for your activity, without stretching them beyond peak performance.
To know what stretches you should do, consult a physical therapist, trainer, or doctor to know what will work best for your individual needs.