How To Treat Tight Hamstrings

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Treating Tight Hamstrings

Stretching Hamstrings Can Cause Them To Tear

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT – The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

 

how to treat tight hamstrings“Don’t stretch your hamstrings” is the opposite advice to that given to the vast majority of athletes, especially runners. There is good reason to stop before you stretch, and consider why your hamstrings feel tight in the first place before determining how to treat tight hamstrings.

I received a message about a hamstring injury on one of the forums that I moderate. The message came from a father who was concerned about his 12YO son, an avid athlete. While stretching his hamstrings, he heard a “pop” and immediately felt pain at his butt and behind his knee. A few days had passed and the boy was still having hamstring pain while sitting and walking.

The first thing someone may tell him is to stretch, and that’s the last thing that should be done. He needs to get an MRI to make sure that his hamstring tendon isn’t torn. If that’s okay, then he needs to look more in depth to find out why his hamstrings are tight.

Why Your Hamstrings May Be Overstretched

overstretched hamstringsVery often your hamstrings will feel tight even though they are actually being overstretched!  Your hamstrings originate on your posterior pelvis, and one of your quadriceps muscles originates on the front of your pelvis. The quadriceps muscle is Rectus Femoris which goes from your pelvis, over your kneecap and down to your shin bone.

When your Rectus Femoris is tight, it will pull your pelvis down in the front. This causes your pelvis to move up in the back, and your hamstrings get overstretched. Your hamstrings feel tight, but if you then try to stretch them, you could tear them. In fact, if they are tight enough, you could actually pull the tendon away from the bone.

I’ve found that your hamstrings will often release on their own when you treat your quadriceps. As your quadriceps aren’t pulling down on the front of your pelvis, it allows your posterior pelvis to go down. As your posterior pelvis goes down, it releases the over-stretch from your hamstrings.

How to Treat Tight Hamstrings

release quadricep tensionPay attention to tight quadriceps when deciding how to treat tight hamstrings.

Fortunately, it’s really easy to release the tension in your quadriceps. I teach these treatments, and many more, in my book: Treat Yourself To Pain-Free Living.

In this picture, I’m using the Julstro Power Roller to push (don’t roll) from the top of my thigh to just above my knee.

I’ve found that the Power Roller gives more focused strength than using a foam roller. Also, tools that have beads that roll can’t go deep enough to reach the lower fibers of this thick muscle.

You’ll find a big spasm, which feels like a bump, at the point shown in this picture. When you go over the spasm, it will hurt so start out slow and build up strength to go deeper.

Also, treating your quadriceps will not only help release your hamstrings, but it is also the treatment for knee pain. This helps you eliminate two painful conditions, not just one! This is also one of the series of treatments for releasing low back, hip, and groin pain. It’s an especially good self-treatment to learn. You can also do this treatment while sitting in a chair with your knee slightly bent.

 How to Treat Tight Hamstrings While Treating Spasms

treat tight hamstringsAFTER you treat your quadriceps, then you can treat your hamstrings. The picture on the left not only treats the spasms, but it also stretches your hamstrings.

I prefer the Julstro Perfect Ball  over any other type of ball.  The Perfect Ball is solid in the middle and soft on the outside, giving great pressure without hurting the muscle.

Put the Perfect Ball on a hard surface such as a wooden stool or corner of a desk.

Rest your hamstrings on top of the ball, moving until you find the spasm in the muscle.

Finish by straightening your leg which will stretch your hamstrings. Go slowly and don’t strain the muscle, just move to a “hurts so good” level.

pain free living bookTreat Yourself to Pain-Free Living  shows you how to treat spasms from your head to your feet. If you are in pain, or if you love sports and your joints feel tight, this book will become your favorite “tool!”

Now, you know how to treat tight hamstrings.

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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Comments (3)

  • Sheri

    |

    HI, wonderful & helpful info. where to get the 2 tools she uses in the photos?

    Reply

  • Len Makila

    |

    Dr. Chaney,

    A very good friend of mine reviewed your information about, “Don’t stretch your hamstrings”.
    He is asking, have you heard anything on a similar topic; that anti-biotics can cause tendon and muscle ruptures that comes from the cumulative effect it can cause over years.

    It is an interesting question and I thought you may have heard something.

    Len Makila

    Reply

    • Dr. Steve Chaney

      |

      Dear Len,
      That is an interesting question. I have not seen anything on that topic in the clinical literature, so I cannot comment on it. That sounds like the kind of information that would come from clinical experience rather than a controlled clinical study.
      Dr. Chaney

      Reply

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Latest Article

Does Protein Supplement Timing Matter?

Posted May 15, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

How Do You Gain Muscle Mass & Lose Fat Mass?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

 

protein supplement timingMost of what you read about protein supplements on the internet is wrong. That is because most published studies on protein supplements:

  • Are very small
  • Are not double blinded.
    • Both the subjects and the investigators knew who got the protein supplement.
  • Are done by individual companies with their product.
    • You have no idea which ingredients are in their product are responsible for the effects they report.
    • You have no idea how their product compares with other protein products.
    • There is no standardization with respect to the amount or type of protein or the addition of non-protein ingredients.

Because of these limitations there is a lot of misleading information on the benefits of protein supplements timing and maximal benefit. Let’s start by looking at why people use protein supplements. Let’s also look at what is generally accepted as true with respect to the best supplement timing.

There are 4 major reasons people consume protein supplements:

  • Enhance the muscle gain associated with resistance training: In this case, protein supplements are customarily consumed concurrently with the workout.
  • Preserve muscle and accelerate fat loss while on a weight loss diet: In this case, protein supplements are customarily consumed with meals or as meal replacements.
  • Provide a healthier protein source. In this case, protein supplements are customarily consumed with meals in place of meat protein.
  • Prevent muscle loss associated with aging or illness. There is no customary pattern associated with this use of protein supplements.

How good are the data supporting the customary timing of protein supplementation? The answer is: Not very good. The timing is based on a collection of weak studies which do not always agree with each other.

The current study  (J.L. Hudson et al, Nutrition Reviews, 76: 461-468, 2018 ) was designed to fill this void in our knowledge. It is a meta-analysis that compares all reasonably good studies that have looked at the effect of protein supplement timing on weight gain or loss, lean muscle mass gain, fat loss, and the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass.

How Was The Study Done?

The authors started by doing a literature search of all studies that met the following criteria:

  • The study was a randomized control trial with parallel design. This means that study contained a control group. It does not mean that the investigators or subjects were blinded with respect to which subjects used a protein supplement and which did not.
  • The subjects were engaged in resistance training.
  • The study lasted 6 weeks or longer.
  • Reliable methods were used to measure body composition (lean muscle mass and fat mass).
  • The subjects were healthy and at least 19 years old.
  • There was no restriction on the food the subjects consumed.

The authors started with 2074 published studies and ended up with 34 that met all their criteria. They then separated the studies into two groups – those in which the protein supplements were used with meals and those in which the protein supplements were used between meals.

Both groups were diverse.

  • Group 1 included subjects who consumed their protein supplement with their meal and those who consumed their protein supplement as a meal replacement.
  • Group 2 included subjects who consumed their protein supplement concurrent with exercise (usually immediately after exercise) and those who consumed their protein supplement at a fixed time of day not associated with exercise.

Does Protein Supplement Timing Matter?

 

protein supplement timing workoutsBecause the individual studies were very diverse in the way they were designed, the authors could not calculate a reliable estimate of how much lean muscle mass was increased or fat mass was decreased. Instead, they calculated the percentage of studies showing an increase in lean muscle mass or a decrease in fat mass.

When the authors compared protein supplements consumed with meals versus protein supplements consumed between meals:

  • Weight gain was observed in 56% of the studies of protein supplementation with meals compared to 72% of the studies of protein supplementation between meals. In other words, protein supplements consumed with meals were less likely to lead to weight gain than protein supplements consumed between meals.
  • An increase in lean muscle mass was observed in 94% of the studies of protein supplementation with meals compared to 90% of the studies of protein supplementation between meals. In other words, timing of protein supplementation did not matter with respect to increase in muscle mass.
  • A loss of fat mass was observed in 87% of the studies of protein supplementation with meals compared to 59% of the studies of protein supplementation between meals. In other words, protein supplements consumed with meals were more likely to lead to loss of fat mass.
  • An increase in the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass was observed in 100% of the studies of protein supplementation with meals compared to 87% of the studies of protein supplementation between meals. In short, protein supplements consumed with meals were slightly more likely to lead to an increase in the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass.

The following seem to suggest protein supplement timing matters:

The authors pointed out that their findings were consistent with previous studies showing that when protein supplements are consumed with a meal they displace some of the calories that otherwise would have been consumed. Simply put, people naturally compensate by eating less of other foods.

In contrast, the authors stated that previous studies have shown that when foods, especially liquid foods, are consumed as snacks (between meals), people are less likely to compensate by reducing the calories consumed in the next meal.

The others concluded: “Concurrently with resistance training, consuming protein supplements with meals, rather than between meals, may more effectively promote weight control and reduce fat mass without influencing improvements in lean [muscle] mass.”

What Are The Limitations Of The Study?

Meta-analyses such as this one, are only as good as the studies included in the meta-analysis. Unfortunately, most sports nutrition studies are very weak studies. Thus, this meta-analysis is a perfect example of the “Garbage In: Garbage Out (GI:GO)” phenomenon.

For example, let’s start by looking at what the term “protein supplement” meant.

  • Because the studies were done by individual companies with their product, the protein supplements in this meta-analysis:
    • Included whey, casein, soy, bovine colostrum, rice or combinations of protein sources.
    • Were isolates, concentrates, or hydrolysates.
    • Contained various additions like creatine, amino acids, and carbohydrate.
  • As I discuss in my book, Slaying the Food Myths, previous studies have shown that optimal protein and leucine levels are needed to maximize the increase in muscle mass and decrease in fat mass associated with resistance exercise. However, neither protein nor leucine levels were standardized in the protein supplements included in this meta-analysis.
  • Previous studies have shown that protein supplements that have little effect on blood sugar levels (have a low glycemic index) are more likely to curb appetite. However, glycemic index was not standardized for the protein supplements included in this meta-analysis.

protein supplement timing workout peopleIn short, the conclusions of this study might be true for some protein supplements, but not for others. We have no way of knowing.

We also need to consider the composition of the two groups.

  • Protein supplements used as meal replacements are more likely to decrease weight and fat mass than protein supplements consumed with meals. Yet, both were included in group 1.
  • Some studies suggest that protein supplements consumed concurrent with resistance exercise are more likely to increase muscle mass than protein supplements consumed another time of day. Yet, both are included in group 2. We also have no idea whether the meals with protein supplements in group 1 were consumed shortly after exercise or at an entirely different time of day.

This was the most glaring weakness of the study because it was completely avoidable. The authors could have grouped the studies into categories that made more sense.

In other words, there are multiple weaknesses that limit the predictive power of this study.

What Can We Learn From This Study?

Despite its many limitations, this study does remind us that protein supplements do have calories. This is of relatively little importance for people whose primary goal is to increase lean muscle mass.

However, most of us are using protein supplements to lose weight or to increase our lean mass to fat mass ratio. Simply put, we are either trying to lean out (shape up) or lose weight. And, we want to lose that weight primarily by getting rid of excess fat. For us, calories do matter. With that in mind:

  • If we are consuming a protein supplement immediately after exercise or between meals we probably should make a conscious effort to reduce our daily caloric intake elsewhere in our diet.
  • Alternatively, we could consume the protein supplement with a meal, but time the meal so it occurs shortly after exercise.

 

The Bottom Line:

 

A recent study looked at the optimal timing of protein supplements consumed by subjects who were engaged in resistance exercise. Specifically, the study compared protein supplements consumed with meals versus protein supplements consumed between meals on weight, lean muscle mass, fat mass, and the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat mass. The study reported:

  • Protein supplements consumed with meals were less likely to lead to weight gain than protein supplements consumed between meals.
  • Timing of protein supplementation did not matter with respect to increase in muscle mass.
  • Protein supplements consumed with meals were more likely to lead to loss of fat mass.
  • Protein supplements consumed with meals were slightly more likely to lead to an increase in the ratio of lean mass to fat mass.

The authors pointed out that their findings were consistent with previous studies showing that when a protein supplement was consumed with a meal it displaces some of the calories that would have been otherwise consumed. Simply put, people naturally compensate by eating less of other foods.

In contrast, the authors said that previous studies have shown that when foods, especially liquid foods, are consumed as snacks (between meals), people are less likely to compensate by reducing the calories consumed in the next meal.

As discussed in the article above, the study has major weaknesses. However, despite its many weaknesses, this study does remind us that protein supplements do have calories. This is of relatively little importance for people whose primary goal is to increase lean muscle mass.

However, for those of us who are using protein supplements to lose weight or to increase our lean mass to fat mass ratio, calories do matter.  With that in mind:

  • If we are consuming a protein supplement immediately after exercise or between meals we probably should make a conscious effort to reduce our daily caloric intake elsewhere in our diet.
  • Alternatively, we could consume the protein supplement with a meal, but time the meal so it occurs shortly after exercise.

For more details, read the article above:

 

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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