How many times have you heard of someone having tight hamstring muscles? In fact, I dare suggest that most guys (myself included) would struggle to touch their toes.
So the answer is simple right? Stretch more often!! Well, it may not always be quite that simple.
If it was, those tight Hamstring muscles would respond really well to stretching, the new muscle length would be long lasting and we would all have the flexibility of Gumby (a late 80’s/early 90’s reference to a cartoon character – Google him!!).
Obviously this is not always the case. As when a muscle is stretched (as in a static/held stretch), the muscle will lengthen somewhat, and increase its range of motion. However, the added range of motion from static stretching never holds. A few hours later, or the next day, the muscle is tight again.
Other methods of improving flexibility including self–massage, foam rolling etc. can provide an effective method for improving mobility and tissue health.
The problem with these techniques is that they are not addressing the underlying cause of the problem in the first place, and the issue is bound to re-occur.
For the majority of individuals, the “CORE” of the problem actually lies in the spine and hips. The issue being that instability at the pelvis has resulted in a twisted or uneven pelvis (hips) – resulting in one Hamstring muscle being anatomically longer than the other -so it isn’t the muscle itself being short/long- but as the Hamstring muscles attach to the pelvis- the unevenness has resulted in the Hamstrings changing their length.
Furthermore, the twist in the pelvis can also result in the muscles surrounding the lower back (the Hamstrings included) to tighten up, almost as a protective mechanism, resulting in further tightness and often muscle spasm.
It is not uncommon for individuals with lower back problems to experience not only very tight Hamstrings, but also to experience numbness/tingling into the Hamstring area- what can be referred to as neural tension. Aggressively stretching the Hamstrings can actually make these symptoms worse.
In order for a muscle to be flexible, the nervous system must send a message to the muscle that it is “safe” to lengthen. Irritating the nerves surrounding the lower back will also irritate the muscles of the legs.
So what is the solution to tight hamstrings ?
Incorporating a “core” strength and stability program to strengthen the stabilising muscles of the pelvis and lower will help prevent the pelvis becoming unstable and twisted which will also relieve any “neural tension” and allow the nervous system to allow the muscles of the Hamstrings to lengthen to a greater degree.
Contact your Exercise Physiologist at Optimum Health Solutions to book in for a complete postural and functional assessment to gain an understanding of specific imbalances.
The results from this assessment will also allow your Exercise Physiologist to be able to write you a specific core strength and stability program.