Why Is My Hamstring Always so Tight?

“My hamstring feels so achy and tight, and it won’t go away no matter how much I stretch it.”.

This is a common complaint that I hear among people and it is especially common among anyone involved in field sports.

This image look familiar – Hopefully Not

What is their immediate reaction to a muscle that feels tight – stretch it and when it doesn’t improve, keep stretching it!!!

However, this is not always the correct thing to do.

A way to check this is do a simple Toe Touch test with your hands together, legs straight  and reach your hands down towards your toes without bending your knees.  If you can just touch your toes, or are within an inch of your toes, then that is a perfect length for you hamstrings unless you are involved in martial arts or gymnastics and you need extra flexibility. But for running and field sports, it is fine.

What I tend to see is that people are able to get way past their toes and get the back of their hands on the floor. This can mean that you have TOO MUCH length in your hamstrings.  (Women will naturally have more flexibility and will be able to do this  more easily then men).

If you find that you have excess length in your hamstrings then there is a good chance that the quadriceps muscles on the opposing side of your leg are going to have reduced length. Muscles work in pairs and while one contracts the other must relax and trying to maintain a good balance, is one of the keys to preventing non-contact injuries.

So, if your hamstrings are in a lengthened position, they are going to have to work harder to produce force, which means they are going fatigue more easily, which may also be  a reason why your hamstring is  cramping a lot.

Your body will re-organize itself

Your brain will now decide to intervene and it will send messages down to you hamstring to tighten and protect the muscle, which will result in the sensation of tightness that you feel. If you stretch your hamstring further then this repeats the cycle and it turns into an annoying ache and feeling of tightness in the muscle that wont go away, no matter how much you stretch it.

Now, how your hamstrings can become too long in the first place is another story but a lot of it can be down to the inability of your ribs to fully depress and your diaphragm to fully lengthen which will have an influence on your pelvis, which directly influences your hamstrings.

This is often a  result of the individuals lifestyle, previous injuries, stressors and training habits and it is something that I  go through with each individual who presents to me with hamstring pain or an injury.

What’s the solution?

So what’s the solution for tired achy hamstrings that fatigue too easily and can’t last a full match, cramp a lot or are just there tight, achy and annoying.

One of the solutions is to stop stretching your hamstrings in the traditional sagital plane and move into more 3D planes –

Stop This

TRY THIS INSTEAD

Another solution is to check have you enough flexibility in your quads and are they causing the length / tension relationship with your hamstrings to be off.  Watch the video below for a better way to stretch your quads.

Another solution is to check have you adequate strength in your glutes and are you able to transmit forces from the ground up through your calfs, hammys and into your glutes. This is not  really possible to check by yourself and you need a qualified therapist to do so.

And then if course there is the ribcage, diaphragm,  pelvis position which will have a huge influence on your hamstring and since I’ve started to integrate breathing mechanics into my practice I’ve  been having very good results with over the last 9 months and it is often the missing link in stubborn hamstring cases.

So to summarize,

– Tightness is a feeling and a sensation that’s created by your brain to let you know that something is up. It is not a tear in the muscle as often people think.

– Stretching is not the answer even though it may feel good at the time, it will not be the long- term solution.

– Muscle tears, bruises and cuts all heal generally within a specific time. If you have been suffering with tightness or pain  for 3 months or more, then it definitely is time to get it checked out as it not going to go away by itself and chances are, it may get worse. Don’t leave it too long to get looked at, as it can develop into a trickier case, that can take longer to rehabilitate.

If you are suffering with hamstring pains or aches and would like to get it looked at then call my clinic on 089 210 2586 or click this link to fill out an enquiry form.

Talk soon

Derek

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