Why can stretching your hamstrings help your back pain?

If you're expecting to see back-focused exercises...you're in the wrong place 🙂

Rather than re-list the eternal exercises of relaxation or back relaxation, I suggest you to take an interest in ... hamstrings.

Indeed, having tight hamstrings is a common cause of back pain. Working specifically on this part of the body will help you if you suffer from persistent back pain, especially in the lumbar region.

What is the purpose of the hamstrings?

The primary function of the hamstrings is to allow your knee to bend and rotate, but it also helps extend the hips, allowing your pelvis to tilt forward.

The hamstrings are made up of three different muscles located at the back of the thigh. These muscles, the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris, help form the hamstrings. These muscles attach to the ischial tuberosity at one end and just below the knee joint at the other end, allowing them to assist in both knee flexion and hip extension. This particular muscle group is well known for being overly tight in many people, not just those with low back pain.

How hamstrings can affect the lower back

The hamstrings are located in the legs, so it is not obvious to people that they can have an effect on the lower back. However, if you look at the anatomy of the human body, you will begin to realize that everything is connected, much more so than it first appears.

When the hamstrings are tight, they pull on the ischial tuberosity, also known as the "sit bone", which causes the pelvis to retrovert, tilt backward and flex the lower back forward. This negatively affects the alignment of the spine. The tighter the hamstrings are, the more they will pull. This puts a strain on the ligaments that surround your vertebrae.

How to reduce hamstring stiffness?

If your hamstrings are tight, talk to your chiropractor. They will be able to advise you on methods you can use to lengthen them. This should help relieve any lower back pain you may be experiencing.

Stretching your hamstrings will help your body move the way it should, putting less pressure on the spine. Don't assume your hamstrings are in good shape, practice regular hamstring stretches. One of the quickest and easiest ways to stretch your hamstrings is to simply bend over and touch your toes. Remember to warm up your muscles before stretching, this will ensure that your muscles are functioning in their proper range of motion and will help you avoid cramping or stiffness.

Massage can also help stretch and relax muscles such as the hamstrings. An experienced sports massage therapist will be able to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues, relieving any pain and muscle tension you may be experiencing.

When you exercise your hamstrings and sit all day, your leg muscles can tighten. Stretching your hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors can help keep your back, hips and knees healthy.

For anyone who runs, bikes or hikes on the weekend, you may have experienced tight hamstrings! These stretches can help you reduce stiffness and increase flexibility in your hamstrings.

Dynamic hamstring stretches

During dynamic stretching, you continue to move throughout the stretch, rather than holding a fixed position. This type of stretching is ideal before exercise to warm up muscles and joints.

Massage roller

Foam rolling helps increase blood flow to the hamstrings, loosening the connective tissue around the muscles to allow for smooth movement. Foam rolling can be done before your workout, as part of your warm-up, or at the beginning of a recovery session to warm up the muscles before stretching.

Instructions :

  • Place the roll horizontally in front of you.
  • Extend one leg over the rollers with your hands behind your back for balance.
  • Let the roller press on the middle part of your hamstring.
  • Slowly roll the roller along the length of your hamstrings.
  • Once you reach a point of sensitivity (called a trigger point), pause and hold that position for about 60 seconds or until the pressure/pain is significantly reduced.
  • Continue rolling the entire length of your hamstrings, pausing at the trigger points if necessary.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Alternate hamstring stretch

This hamstring stretch helps get blood flowing to your hamstrings and calves.

Instructions :

  • Plant both feet on the ground, hip-width apart.
  • Keeping your legs straight, lean forward on one side and reach your toes with both hands (or as far as you can).
  • Place your hands on the mat, feet or shins, whichever is more comfortable.
  • Hold the position for about 30 seconds and then return to the initial position.
  • Alternate with the other side in 30-second sequences, breathing deeply throughout the stretch.

Romanian single legged deadlift

This exercise warms up your hamstrings and helps activate your glutes and core for your workout. Try to keep your hips even and aligned throughout the movement.

Instructions :

  • Plant both feet on the floor at shoulder width. This is your starting position.
  • Bend your left knee slightly and define it as a fixed angle.
  • Without changing the angle of your left knee, bend forward from your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor, extending your right leg behind you.
  • At the same time, stretch your arms towards the ground.
  • Make sure you keep your hips level, maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine.
  • You should feel tension in your left hamstrings (back of your leg).
  • Push off your left heel and, using your glutes and hamstrings, extend your hips to return to the starting position.

Static hamstring stretches

Static stretching should be done when your muscles are warm for best results and to avoid injury. This type of stretching is best done after your workout, during your recovery.

Always remember to keep breathing naturally throughout the stretch. You should feel a slight pull in the muscle, but never pain.

Standing hamstring stretches

Relieve tension in your hamstrings and lower back with this standing hamstring stretch.

Instructions :

  • Plant both feet on the ground at hip width. Release your left leg and take a big step to the side. Make sure both feet are facing forward.

  • Bending from the hips, lower yourself to the floor (or as far as you can), placing your hands on the floor or on your legs, whichever is more comfortable.

  • Hold this position for 30 seconds while breathing deeply.

  • Each time you exhale, bring your chin closer to the floor (this image will help you keep your back straight) to increase the stretch, making sure you are bending from the hips and not rounding the spine.

Seated hamstring stretches

This stretch is good to do at the end of a workout if you need to sit down to recover.

Instructions :

  • Sit in the butterfly position with both soles of your feet together.

  • Extend one leg in front of you and step forward from your hips.Reach forward from your hips, reaching with your right hand toward your right foot.

  • If you can reach it, gently pull your toes toward you.

  • Hold this position for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Hamstring stretches lying down

Relax into this stretch during your evening routine to loosen up tight hamstrings. You can increase the intensity of this stretch by using a strap or towel wrapped around your foot.

Instructions :

  • Start by lying on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the mat, making sure they are hip-width apart and your spine is in a neutral position.
  • Extend your right leg toward the ceiling and place your hands behind your knee, shin, or ankle - whichever is most comfortable, making sure your tailbone stays on the floor.
  • Hold this position for the specified time, breathing deeply throughout.
  • Each time you exhale, bring your leg closer to your torso to increase the stretch, making sure your spine stays in a neutral position and your tailbone stays on the ground.
  • Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Stretch your hamstrings to help keep your hips flexible!

Tight hips are a common problem for many people, and many people spend a lot of time sitting. Even a few minutes of stretching your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps each day can help increase the mobility of your hips.

Regular use of these hamstring stretches can help prevent lower back pain, reduce the risk of injury and improve your posture.

Looking for more stretches to loosen tight hips? Hip flexor stretches are important to keep your hips flexible after a day of sitting.

How about you? Do you take the time to stretch your hamstrings? Let us know in the comments!

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