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****