Your hamstrings are composed of three muscle, the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and
semimembranosus, which run from the hip to the knee along the back of your thigh. Together,
these group of muscles help you run, walk and jump. Due to their location, they play a role
every time you bend your knee and they enable you to extend your hip. If you participate in
activities with a lot of sprinting or stop-and-go action, such as soccer, tennis or running, you are
at a higher risk of developing hamstring injuries. This is due to the fact that your hamstrings are
repeatedly contracting to bring the lower legs up towards the buttocks.
Besides certain athletic activities, hamstring injuries can occur due to a number of reasons. if
you don’t stretch and warm up your muscles, you’re at a greater risk. They can also be a result
of weak glutes which in turn cause the hamstrings to overcompensate. Tight hamstrings can
also cause the hips and pelvis to rotate back which can then cause back pain or even plantar
When your hamstrings are tight, it is not only uncomfortable but it can lead to other pain points
and problems. Your hamstrings are connected to your pelvis which is connected to your lower
back. Chronically tight hamstrings will continually pull the pelvis down which pulls the lower
back out of alignment and can attribute to back aches amongst other back problems.
How Do I Know if I Have a Hamstring Strain?
If you feel a pain in the back of your thigh, there is a great chance it could be a hamstring strain.
Here is an easy test: bend down and try to touch your toes. If you feel a strain behind your
thighs, your hamstrings are tight. If your strain is mild, it probably won’t hurt too much but if it
is severe, you may feel excruciating pain and may not be able to walk. You may also feel pain in
the back of your thigh or lower buttock while walking or bending over.
Another sign that your hamstrings may be tight is if your buttocks fell asleep. This is a sign of
referred pain where weakness in one area causes other areas to overcompensate. A tingly
feeling in your bottom could be a sign of underactive glutes and overactive hamstrings.
What Can I Do to Prevent Hamstring Tightness?
A leading contributing component to hamstring tightness is being sedentary for an extended
period of time. Hamstring muscles are at their shortest while you’re sitting. Be mindful of your
posture and avoid crossing your legs. Instead, tilt your pelvis forward so that there is a small
curve in your lower back. This will enable you to keep your pelvis neutral.
Secondly, if you are active in stop-and-go sports, ensure that you are taking the time to
properly warm up your muscles before engaging in such activities.
Tips for Treating a Hamstring Strain
When your hamstrings are tight, they are prone to strains and tears. If your hamstring strain is
not severe, it can heal on its own without medical attention. If the injury is severe, surgery may
be required. The following can be done to treat minor strains:
The good old RICE method works for hamstring strains. Ice the area behind your thighs for a
few days until the pain is gone. You should also rest your leg and avoid putting any weight on it.
Massage your Hamstrings
A tennis ball is all you need to get relief fast. While seated, place the tennis ball between your
leg and chair and roll the ball by moving your leg side to side. You can also target specific areas
and move the ball accordingly.
This might sound silly but doing so will help strengthen your hamstrings amongst many other
benefits. Walking backwards, also known as retro walking, places less stress on your knees and
also opens up your pelvis. It also helps those with hip injuries, as walking backwards reduces
the overall range of motion at the hip joint. Incorporate retro walking into your routine slowly
by starting with 10 backwards steps. When you get used to the concept, add more steps. To
really kick it up a notch, walk backwards going up slight elevations like a slope.
Stretching can help loosen the muscles and prevent them from getting tight. To properly
stretch them, you will need to extend your knees and flex your hip simultaneously. These three
stretches will keep your hamstrings happy:
Lying Hamstring Stretch
Lie on the ground with your back flat, knees bent and your feet on the ground. Bring your right
knee towards your chest with your feet facing up towards the ceiling while your other knee
remains bent. Use a towel or a strap to deepen the stretch and hold your right leg straight in
this position until you feel a slight tension in the hamstring. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat with
your left leg.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a towel or strap, you can improvise and use the entry of an open
doorway. Lie on your back with your buttocks slightly above the start of the door frame. Lift your
left leg up and rest it against the wall alongside the doorway with your heel resting as well. Hold
this pose and alternate with your right leg up against the right side of the doorway.
Seated Toe Touch Stretch
Sit with your legs laid out in front of you. Rest your hangs alongside your legs and bend your
waist forward as far as you can while keeping your legs straight. You should feel a gentle pull in
the back of your thighs. Hold for 30 seconds and retreat back to your starting position. Ensure you hold the stretch for that length of time as you can otherwise cause a muscle to contract
more, counteracting the benefits of the stretch.
While standing, cross both your legs so that your feet are side by side to each other and flat but
on the opposite side. Then, bend forward as if you are going to touch your toes and look in
between your legs. Place your hands flat on the ground and hold this position.
If you have a severe hamstring strain or injury, your physical therapist will work with you on a
bunch of exercises and stretches to target the hamstring. They will show you exercises to use at
home too and teach you all about prevention.
If you’re seeking treatment for your hamstring injuries, call us at 646-665-7109 today to set up
an appointment. Our team of physical therapists and rehabilitative specialists are here to help.