How to Increase your Range of Motion in Your Tight Hamstrings!

Most people try and stretch the hamstring muscles with various different types of stretches/ movements, if they feel tension in the back of the thighs.  Some people try yoga to increase flexibility, some people try massage, some try physiotherapy, some try acupuncture.  What if none of these methods seems to be working?

Sometimes the tension in the hamstrings is an indication of a different problem… and the hamstrings just reflect this problem, as they can compensate for other muscle groups.  For example, if the core muscles are not working optimally, it is common for the thigh muscles to make up for this lack of strength in the core by working harder, to try and maintain stability around the pelvis.  Posture/ standing and sitting positions often determine what muscles substitute for the core.  For example, if when standing, the body is in a “sway back” position, which involves leaning back on your pelvis, with the weight on the heels of the feet primarily, with the front of the pelvis swaying forwards… this will often cause the gluteal muscles and the hamstring muscles to tighten up, and get overused.  To change this/ decrease the tension in the hamstrings, it can be as simple as centring your standing and sitting posture so that the weight is in the center/ ball of the foot when standing, and in the fronts of the sit bones while sitting.  This type of posture also allows the core to automatically work harder, which takes the stress/ tension out of the hamstring muscles.

Diastasis Rectus Abdominus which is a separation to the centre line abdominal muscle fascia is strongly related to core dysfunction.  It is common for people to form a “sway back” type of posture with the condition, and thus overuse the hamstrings as stabilizers for the pelvis/ pelvic girdle.  Working on correcting the deep core, including the pelvic floor muscle system strength and function can assist with alleviating hamstring tension, as these muscles often no longer have to work as hard to provide stability to the body… the core does this primarily instead.

One other way the the hamstrings can become tight has to do with the nervous system.  There is a central sleeve, called the dura, that attaches from the skull down to the tailbone, and allows flexibility to the spine, as well as protection to the spinal cord.  This dura branches out into the arms and legs, and if it gets tight, it can cause overuse/ tension of the muscles in these areas.  For example, if someone gets into a car accident, or suffers a fall on the tailbone resulting in coccydynia, or gets into a high impact sports injury… sometimes the dura gets over stretched.  The body protects the spinal cord very strongly through the dura… so in order for the spinal cord to stay protected… the dura forms tension in it after a trauma, or a large stretch.  This can cause tension to form in the branches of the dura into either the arms, legs, or both.  The dural attachments into the legs run into the hamstrings, via the sciatic nerve.  If the dura is under tension, often stretching the hamstrings does not improve hamstring mobility at all, in fact, it can tighten up the hamstrings even more… as the body/ the dura is trying to protect the spinal cord… so it does not want any further stretch to it.  Often, to alleviate the perceived hamstring tension, which in this case may be dural tension, mobilizing the dura through various hands on techniques, as well as home exercises, helps to decrease the tension in the hamstrings.

The main point is that if you have tension in your hamstring muscles, and it does not seem to improve with stretching, yoga, massage, etc., you may want to get further assessment of your body, to determine what the main possible cause is for the hamstring tension… as there is potentially many different reasons, the hamstrings can become tight… or can be perceived as being tight.

At Angela Simpson Physiotherapy, a 1 on 1 appointment for 1 hour allows for a proper assessment, to determine the cause of the problem/ injury, as well as the best way to go about fixing it.  To book with Angela Simpson Physiotherapy, please go to:

www.angelasimpsonphysio.ca