Hamstring Stretches

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in current health articles, Exercise, Muscle Therapy and Health

 What To Do For Tight Hamstrings

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

You are about to begin your run, or maybe you have just finished running. Your hamstring feels really tight. Maybe it is even painful. It seems obvious that you need to stretch it, but that could be exactly the wrong thing to do!

You Need To Release Muscle Fiber Knots Before You Do Hamstring Stretches!

hamstring exercisesStretching can be dangerous if the muscle is shortened by spasms.  A spasm (also called a muscle knot or trigger point) is like tying a knot in the center of the muscle.  And while each spasm may only involve a few fibers; there can be multiple spasms throughout the muscle.

Each spasm feels like a bump when you slide your fingers deeply down the length of the muscle. These spasms normally form over an extended period of time, often from repetitive strain on the muscle fibers.

Muscle Spasms Are At The Heart of the Stretching Misconception

It is important that you think of a spasm as a knot in the muscle fibers in order to understand why it can hurt to stretch.

A muscle begins on a stationary bone, crosses over a joint, and then inserts into a moveable bone.  When the muscle pulls on the moveable bone, the joint moves, however, if the muscle has a “knot” in it you can cause micro-tears to the fibers as you stretch.

As you stretch, knots within the muscle get tighter, this also causes the fibers on either side of the spasm to overstretch.  Overstretching can cause fiber tears either along the length of the muscle or where the fibers attach to the bone.  In most cases this can be avoided by simply applying pressure to the muscle to release the spasm before you stretch.

What Do Hamstrings Do?

Your hamstrings are responsible for bending your knee.  Every time you take a step, sit down, or climb stairs, you contract your hamstrings.

The only time your hamstrings aren’t contracting is when you are standing up straight.  This means they are frequently repetitively strained and contain multiple spasms along the muscle fibers.  These tight muscles put a strain on the back of your knee and at the origination point (the bottom of your posterior pelvis).

What Causes Tight Hamstrings?

The hamstrings are a bit unique from other muscles because while they can certainly have spasms in the fibers from repetitive strain injuries, they are also overstretched because of two major muscles that rotate the pelvis down in the front.

The two muscles that cause tight muscles to be overstretched are the iliopsoas (a muscle on the front side of the lumbar vertebrae) and the quadriceps (front of the thigh).

As these muscles get tight, primarily from sitting, they cause the pelvis to rotate forward and down.  As your pelvis rotates down in the front, it rotates up in the back.

Since your hamstrings originate on the bottom of the posterior pelvis, as it is moving up, the muscle fibers are already overstretched – so you don’t need to stretch them further.  In fact, if you stretch them they could potentially tear.

What Should You Do Before Your Hamstring Stretches?

relieve muscle knotsIt’s actually a 3-step process.  The key is to release tension in the front of the body before you can safely stretch the hamstrings.

First you need to release the tension in your quadriceps, this will take the tension off the front of the pelvis. You do this by rolling out your quadriceps muscles which releases trigger points (muscle spasms).

hamstring stretchesNext, stretch your iliopsoas. A low lunge is a great way to stretch the iliopsoas. This causes the pelvis to rotate up in the front and down in the back. As that happens tension is removed from the hamstrings.

tight hamstringsNow you can release the spasms in the hamstrings. You do this by sitting on a trigger point therapy ball, ironing out your hamstrings. Stay on specific points of pain; these are the knots in the muscle fibers you need to release. The direct pressure forces out the toxins, draws in blood and causes muscle fibers to lengthen.

Releasing muscle knots in your quadriceps, stretching your iliopsoas and releasing muscle knots in your hamstrings MUST be done before you can safely perform your hamstring stretches.

Do yourself a big favor and take these short steps; you will notice a difference!

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

About The Author

julie donnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

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Comments (1)

  • Mary Riley

    |

    As a yoga instructor, I find I naturally gravitate to the low lunge at the beginning of class. Now I know why! How very helpful this information is regarding hamstrings. Thanks kindly!

    Reply

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Latest Article

How to Choose the Right Pillow

Posted April 17, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Wake Up Each Morning Pain Free

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

how to choose the right pillow without headachesThe way you sleep is often a key to discovering the cause of headaches and more. If you wake up with neck pain, a headache, or you suffer from ringing in your ears, dizziness, or ear pain, there is a good possibility that it may be caused by the way you are sleeping. Your pillow may be the culprit.  But if you need to know how to choose the right pillow for you, it’s easy.   It just takes a little “investigation.”

 

How to Choose the Right Pillow if You Sleep On Your Side

Your head, neck, and spine need to always stay in a nice straight line, just as it is when you are standing up, but that takes a little thought and understanding of the way you sleep.  So, get comfy in your bed and then notice how your head is resting.

how to choose the right pillow to sleep painfreeIf you sleep on your side, your pillow needs to be just the right size, so your head doesn’t point down toward the mattress (your pillow is too soft) or up to the ceiling (your pillow is too thick). Either of these positions will make the muscles on the side of your neck stay in the contracted position for hours and pull your vertebrae in that direction, especially when you try to turn over to your other side.

Your SCM Muscle May Cause Serious Problems

You also need to notice if you turn your head a bit, especially if you are turning into your pillow or turning your head up toward away from your pillow. In either of these two cases you will be causing your sternocleidomastoid (SCM for short) to be held shortened for hours.

Your SCM originates on your collarbone and inserts into the bone behind your ear.  When it contracts you turn your head to the opposite side. However, if the muscle is tight (for example, when you’ve held your head turned toward one side for an extended period of time) and then you bring your head back so you are facing forward, the tight muscle will pull on the bone behind your ear and cause havoc.

The symptoms for a tight SCM are tinnitus (ringing in the ear), dizziness, loss of equilibrium, ear pain, headaches, pain in the eye and around the skull, pain at the top of the head, and even pain in the throat. Amazing! What’s even more amazing is that it’s rare that this muscle is considered when a medical professional is searching for the cause of your symptoms.

These are the things to know when considering how to choose the right pillow if you sleep on your side.

How To Choose The Right Pillow If You Sleep On Your Back

how to choose the right pillow for sleeping on your backIf you sleep on your back, your head should be on the mattress (not propped up with a pillow) and you should have a tiny support (like a folded washcloth) under your neck.  Or, you can have a wedge pillow that starts at your mid-back and gently raises your entire trunk and head up while still allowing your head and back to be in a straight line.

It’s always a challenge for people who toss and turn during the night, sometimes on their side and sometimes on their back.  The best thing I’ve found for this situation is to have the pillow below shoulder level so when you turn on your side your shoulder will automatically slide to the edge of the pillow while still supporting your head properly, and when you turn onto your back, the pillow will start at shoulder level so your head and neck are supported, but your head is being pushed in a way that causes your chin to move down to your chest.

hip pain causes and treatment pain freeIt’s tricky, but I can personally attest to the fact that it will work.  I can always tell when I’ve had my head tilted (I toss and turn during the night) because I will wake with a headache. When that happens I’m grateful that I know how to self-treat the muscles of my neck and shoulders so the headache is eliminated quickly.  If you already have Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living,  you can self-treat all your neck and shoulder muscles to release the tension.

How To Choose The Right Pillow If You Sleep On Your Stomach

If you sleep on your stomach, this is the one position that is so bad that it behooves you to force yourself to change your position. Your head is turned to the side and held still for hours, putting a severe strain on all your cervical and upper thoracic vertebrae. Not only will this cause headaches, tinnitus, and a list of other pains, but it can cause problems down your entire spine. It can also impinge on the nerves that pass through the vertebrae on their way to your organs.

If you do sleep that way, let me know and I’ll give you some suggestions that work to change your habit of sleeping. It takes time and energy, but the results are worth the effort.

In every case, the way you sleep may cause neck pain that won’t go away until the pillow situation is resolved.

Now you should know how to choose the right pillow for the way you sleep.

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly

About The Author

julie donnelly

Julie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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