Tight Hamstring Muscles
Tight hamstring muscles are common and most of the time will not cause a problem. However they may be more prone to severe strains or contribute to other problems such as back pain.
In addition to an increased injury risk tight hamstrings may affect sports performance making some techniques difficult or impossible such as in high hurdling or martial arts techniques. Forcing a muscle to move at speed outside of its comfortable range will increase the chance of a muscle tear.
Tight hamstrings explained
The hamstring muscle group consists of the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris muscles. Tight hamstrings can cause the hips and pelvis to rotate back flattening the lower back and causing back problems. Tight hamstrings can also be responsible for postural problems and other back problems such as sacroiliac joint pain, as they will tend to pull the pelvis out of normal position.
If your muscles have tightened up then blood has been squeezed out of them therefore your muscles are working at less than 100 % of capacity and your performance will be down as a result. Regular sports massage for hamstring muscles and hamstring stretching to improve muscle condition will not only reduce the likelihood of injury but may also improve sporting performance.
The causes of tight hamstring muscles are varied. Genetics is one reason. You can be born with naturally short hamstrings when some people are naturally supple. In general women and children are more supple than men.
Not enough stretching. If you participate in a lot of sport and do not stretch properly then you are more likely to have your hamstrings tighten up. It is especially important to stretch properly after exercise as this is when the muscles are warm and more receptive to stretching. If you tend to make a beeline for the bar after your game of football think about spending 10 minutes stretching first.
Problems in your lower back can put pressure on your sciatic nerve which runs down the legs and cause muscles to tighten.
The normal range of hip flexion measured when laying flat on your back and raising the leg straight off the floor knee straight permitted by the hamstrings is in the region of 80-90 degrees. Anything less than 80 degrees is considered tight.
Stretching the hamstring muscles
Even if you are not naturally supple you can still improve your flexibility by stretching. Types of stretching include dynamic, static, passive, PNF and CRAC. Avoid ballistic stretching which is bouncing and forcing the muscle to go further than is comfortable and will damage it. Sports massage can help in loosening tight muscles. Have a regular sports massage on the legs.