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

One of the Little known Causes of Headaches

Posted August 15, 2017 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Your Sleeping Position May Be Causing Your Headaches!

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

Can sleeping position be one of the causes of headaches?  

A Sleeping position that has your head tilted puts pressure on your spinal cord and will cause headaches. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times, and the reasoning is so logical it’s easy to understand.

causes of headachesYour spinal cord runs from your brain, through each of your vertebrae, down your arms and legs. Nerves pass out of the vertebrae and go to every cell in your body, including each of your organs. When you are sleeping it is important to keep your head, neck, and spine in a horizontal plane so you aren’t straining the muscles that insert into your vertebrae.

The graphic above is a close-up of your skull and the cervical (neck) vertebrae. Your nerves are shown in yellow, and your artery is shown in red.  Consider what happens if you hold your head to one side for hours. You can notice that the nerves and artery will likely be press upon. Also, since your spinal cord comes down the inside of the vertebrae, it will also be impinged.

In 2004 the Archives of Internal Medicine published an article stating that 1 out of 13 people have morning headaches. It’s interesting to note that the article never mentions the spinal cord being impinged by the vertebrae. That’s a major oversight!

Muscles merge into tendons, and the tendons insert into the bone.  As you stayed in the tilted position for hours, the muscles actually shortened to the new length.  Then you try to turn over, but the short muscles are holding your cervical vertebrae tightly, and they can’t lengthen.

The weight of your head pulls on the vertebrae, putting even more pressure on your spinal cord and nerves.  Plus, the tight muscles are pulling on the bones, causing pain on the bone.

Your Pillow is Involved in Your Sleeping Position and the Causes of  Headaches

sleep left side

The analogy I always use is; just as pulling your hair hurts your scalp, the muscle pulling on the tendons hurts the bone where it inserts.  In this case it is your neck muscles putting a strain on your cervical bones.  For example, if you sleep on your left side and your pillow is too thick, your head will be tilted up toward the ceiling. This position tightens the muscles on the right side of your neck.

sleeping in car and desk

Dozing off while sitting in a car waiting for someone to arrive, or while working for hours at your desk can also horizontal line sleepcause headaches. The pictures above show a strain on the neck when you fall asleep without any support on your neck. Both of these people will wake up with a headache, and with stiffness in their neck.

The best sleeping position to prevent headaches is to have your pillow adjusted so your head, neck, and spine are in a horizontal line. Play with your pillows, putting two thin pillows into one case if necessary. If your pillow is too thick try to open up a corner and pull out some of the stuffing.

 

sleeping on stomachSleeping on Your Back & Stomach

If you sleep on your back and have your head on the mattress, your spine is straight. All you need is a little neck pillow for support, and a pillow under your knees.

Stomach sleeping is the worst sleeping position for not only headaches, but so many other aches and pains. It’s a tough habit to break, but it can be done. This sleeping position deserves its own blog, which I will do in the future.

 

Treating the Muscles That Cause Headaches

sleeping position causes of headachesAll of the muscles that originate or insert into your cervical vertebrae, and many that insert into your shoulder and upper back, need to be treated.  The treatments are all taught in Treat Yourself to Pain Free Living, in the neck and shoulder chapters.  Here is one treatment that will help you get relief.

Take either a tennis ball or the Perfect Ball (which really is Perfect because it has a solid center and soft outside) and press into your shoulder as shown.  You are treating a muscle called Levator Scapulae which pulls your cervical vertebrae out of alignment when it is tight.

Hold the press for about 30 seconds, release, and then press again.

Your pillow is a key to neck pain and headaches caused by your sleeping position.  It’s worth the time and energy to investigate how you sleep and correct your pillow.  I believe this blog will help you find the solution and will insure you have restful sleep each night.

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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