3 Reasons For Tight Hamstrings You Dont Know About

If your hamstrings are always “tight” there is a reason behind it – and it’s not because you’re not stretching.  In fact, if you are stretching, it may be making it worse!  While this may sound like crazy talk, allow me to explain.

The hamstrings are a group of 3 different muscles.  They originate on the pelvis and insert on the lower leg, just below the knee.  They are primarily responsible for extension of the hip and flexing the knee.  The hamstrings play a vital role in most of our daily activities, which include standing, walking, running, and jumping, but they also play a protective role for nerves and joints.

The Hamstrings

While there can be many different reasons for “tight” hamstrings, the 3 most common I see in my office are the following:

Nerve Entrapment.  The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down into the foot.  This nerve moves and flosses through many different structures on its route.  Often times this nerve will get glued down, and stick to some of the muscles it comes into contact with in the hip and upper thigh – this includes the hamstrings.  When this nerve is prevented from moving properly, and we try to stretch, the body will engage the hamstrings sooner than it would if the nerve wasn’t glued down to protect the nerve from potential harm. This is give off the feeling of “weak and tight.”

Hip Joint Dysfunction.  Place your hand on the outside of your hip. Do you feel the bone there? Now, more than ever with our modern day lifestyles, this joint can become compromised by adhesion and scar tissue.  The femur is held into the hip socket by a group of ligaments.  These ligaments will often form loads of scar tissue after performing repetitive activities or keeping it in place for prolonged periods of time.  This scar tissue will then restrict hip motion.  With this reduction in movement, the joint is more prone to future injury, the hamstrings help to protect this joint by activating earlier than normal and reduces the range of motion.

Hip Capsule

Disc Injury.  Unfortunately, far too many people are walking around with disc injuries, whether they know it or not.  When a disc becomes injured, many simple day to day tasks become more difficult, like trying to stand from a seated position, or bend forward.  Any flexion movement, places more stress on the injured disc.  Part of the job of the hamstrings is to extend the hip and keep you upright.   If we have an injured disc, the hamstrings will try to keep you upright to protect the disc and avoid any unwanted load.

A Few Common Disc Issues

So what can you do?

Often the answer to your problem is simpler than you think.  “Tight” hamstrings are a common problem, but can lead to bigger, chronic issues. Catch all solutions like stretching are rarely ever the answer.  Start by contacting a local expert to get the correct diagnosis for your problem.   Only with the right diagnosis can you finally fix your problem!

If you live in Cedar Rapids or surrounding areas and are constantly struggling with “tight” hamstrings, we invite you to check out our office.  The experts at Thrive Spine and Sport can easily diagnose and provide you with the right plan to fix your problem!  Call our office at 319-423-0925 or fill out an appointment request by clicking here

Thanks for reading!

3 Easy Tests To Help Figure Out Low Back Pain

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) lower back pain will affect 8 out of every 10 people at some point in their life.  On top of being the leading cause of disability worldwide, lower back pain will cost Americans $50 billion dollars this year!  While some cases of low back pain will go away after a couple days on its own, a majority of cases will become chronic in nature!  So why do some cases go away, while others become chronic? Let take a look!

If you do any kind of research online, you will likely find the same recommendations for pain relief repeated – rest, ice, stretch, warm up better prior to activity, NSAIDs, maintain good posture, get better shoes, etc.  While this may sound like sound advice, none of it really works, otherwise we wouldn’t find so many of us in pain.

Since most people start treatment of low back pain by visiting their PCP, or Primary Care Provider, they are often recommended rest and NSAIDS.  After a couple weeks of inactivity, these same people often find themselves right back where they started once they get back to their daily routine.  Sound familiar? So what went wrong?

The problem is that the rest and NSAIDs temporarily raised your symptom threshold, but did nothing to address the real issue. Stretching may provide temporary relief but no long term benefits. The shoes may have taken some stress off your feet, but didn’t touch the low back pain.  None of the above recommendations address long term fixes!

The problem with all of this, and why your pain has become chronic, is that there was not a single, specific diagnosis made to identify the real problem initially!  In my experience, most people with low back pain have some limiting range or motion in their low back, hips, or both. This limited range places extra stress on the low back, causing weakness and pain!

So how do you know if this limited range affects you and your low back pain?  Fortunately, there are some at-home tests that you can do right now to find out where you’re limited and options to finally get your low back pain under control!

The first test is the Standing Toe Touch.  While this may seem simple, most people with low back pain are unable to bend at the waist and touch the toes to the floor without pain or tension in the back of the knees and calves.  The test should be effortless and without pain.

SLPF
Full Standing Toe Touch

 

Knee-to-chest is the easiest way to test hip flexion.  Lie flat on the floor with both legs extended out in front of you.  Bring one knee up to your chest until the front of the thigh is flat with the chest.  If the opposing leg raises up, pinching is felt in the front of the hip, groin, or outer leg, or the thigh falls short of the chest, the test is limited and a possible cause of low back pain.

Hip Flexion Test
Hip Flexion Test

Hip Extension is vital to the stability of your spine.  To test, start in a lunge position, leaning as far forward onto one hip.  Place a ruler in line with the rear leg just in front of the knee.  Drop a plumb line from the front of your hip to the ruler below.  Normal range should fall between 10-12 inches.  Decreased range or pain with this test is a positive finding for this test.

Kneeling Hip Extension
Kneeling Hip Extension

If you or someone you know suffers from low back pain and cannot perform these very simple tests, there is a good chance they can find relief in our office.  At Thrive Spine and Sport, these tests, and a few others from the Integrative Diagnosis system, are used to gain a clear picture and full diagnosis of what causing your low back pain.  By obtaining a full diagnosis and applying the correct treatment, resolution for your pain is possible!

Simply fill out the appointment request on this page or call our office at 319-423-0925 to get to the bottom of your pain today!  Any questions can be sent to Dr. Cody at dr.cody@thrivespineandsport.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

***Special thanks to Ally Thompson of Heat Yoga and Dr. Carl Nottoli of Functional Spine and Sport for the photos****

Will Stretching Help My Pain?

If you have ever been in pain, chances are you were told to stretch.  For some of us it helped, others it didn’t.  Why did it work for some, while others stay in pain and are left thinking they just need to stretch more? Could stretching actually make the pain worse?

To understand this topic, we have to talk about some complicated subjects; anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology.  Please don’t run away, we will make it easy for you to understand.

To start lets agree, that as humans, we all have the same parts, and should, therefore, all move the same and respond similar when exposed to common environments.  Let’s also agree that our modern day lifestyle leaves us in poor postures for most of the day.  Be honest with yourself right now and assess your posture.  Is your head forward into your computer or flexed down to your phone trying to read this?  Is your low back rounded and flexed while at your desk right now or on your drive home?  Chances are it probably is, and you’re like this for most of the day without realizing it. These positions are already lengthened or stretched positions, so why isn’t it helping?

We walk a very fine line everyday balancing between what our body was designed to handle, and what we actually put our body through.  We must understand that when we overload or overwork our body either through training, work, or sitting at a desk all day, the body will have to create compensations to better accommodate the stress being placed on the body.  In the initial phases of compensation, the body will feel “weak and tight.”  This serves as a protective role on the body, and is commonly referred to as “protective tension.”

Protective tension serves a purpose to protect the body from injury by providing stability to an unstable area.  While it may feel good to stretch really all that is happening during this time is that a bunch of stretch receptors are getting fired off and overriding the current symptoms.  This is why you may feel better in the short term but relief never lasts more than a few hours. This is also why it can lead to long term pain, as stretching often leads to more cumulative damage in already lengthened tissue!

If we fail to recognize why the protective tension is occurring and continue with our regular activity without modifications, friction, pressure, and tension, will eventually lead to the development of dysfunction in the body.

Having already agreed that as humans we will mostly have the same parts and respond similar given the same situations, we know that in muscles, or where nerves come into contact with muscles, adhesion will ultimately form in structures with continuous overload from repetitive motions or prolonged positions!  Adhesion is the most common pathology found in muscles, but unfortunately, one of the most misdiagnosed conditions in the human body.  I am going to go out on a limb and guess you haven’t heard this term before.  Fortunately, it can be easily fixed!

Overuse Cycle

Adhesion, or scar tissue, when present, acts like glue on the muscle and nerves.  This further leads into the continuous cycle of feeling “tight” but will also start to cause pain and injury.  If left untreated, this relatively easy problem to fix only gets worse and leads to bigger complications down the road.  Weakness, pain, and even tingling, burning, and numbness, when present along a nerve, can all be caused by adhesion.

Adhesion

Stretching, unfortunately, will not fix adhesion.  In order to fix adhesion, adhesion must be broken down through manual therapy by a certified practitioner that is trained to diagnoses and treat adhesion.  When adhesion is removed, the “need” to stretch is removed.  By removing adhesion, the body can then move better, and function better on a day to day basis without the need to stretch!  Stretching can help to prevent adhesion from coming back in the future, and keep you healthier, but will not fix adhesion in the present.

At Thrive Spine and Sport, we are currently the only full body Integrative Diagnosis provider in the state of Iowa.  Integrative Diagnosis providers are trained to find faulty movement patterns, diagnose, and treat adhesion to fix your pain or movement problem! If you are constantly feeling “tight” or having pain, weakness, or numbness and have failed to find anything that has fixed the problem, I invite you to get to the bottom of your problem! Simply fill out the appointment request on this page or call our office at 319-423-0925 today!

Thanks for reading!