One of the most common things that I hear people say, is that they have tight hamstrings. They say it as if it’s a fact that can’t be changed, and they usually go on to say that when they stretch their hamstrings, their back pain gets less, but they don’t do it because they feel like they have to do it all the time to get any results. Is this sounding familiar? Many of these people also say that one side always seems to be tighter than the other, or that no matter how much they stretch, the hamstrings don’t seem to get any looser. If this sounds like you, you’re not going to want to click away or just briefly scan this post, because we’re going to explain exactly why this is happening to you, and what you can do to fix it without having to stretch 3 times a day for eternity.
In this post you will learn:
- The difference between tight hamstrings and short hamstrings
- Why hamstrings get tight
- How tight hamstrings contribute to low back pain
- The answer to solving years of tight hamstrings…finally!
The Difference Between Tight Hamstrings and Short Hamstrings
The key to understanding the difference between tight and short muscles is knowing that your muscles are not very smart. They do what they’re told, and the brain is the one in charge. Your brain is always assessing how your body feels, and where you are in space. That is how you know, without looking, exactly where to scratch an itch on your back, or grab that item off the floor in the back seat of your car. Your brain is constantly aware of where your body is in space, and it is also always thinking about if you’re balanced, or stable. It’s kind of like if you’re walking through beach sand, or lots of small rocks, your brain tells your ankles, knees, and hips how to behave to stay balanced. Are you with me so far? Good, now here’s the problem. If your brain feels like your body is unstable, it will call in extra muscles to help improve that stability. So it will tighten big muscles that are typically only used for large movements. This is how you get the “tight muscles” versus “short muscles.” Well what is a short muscle then? This may be the case if a muscle has been tight, or put in a shortened position, for so long that the body adapts to having a shorter muscle. The easiest way to think about this is when people wear high heels. If done daily for a long period of time, the calf muscle will gradually shorten.
If you’re with me so far, you will be able to see that it doesn’t make any sense for one of your hamstrings to be shorter than the other, as it’s very unlikely that you’re sitting for 12 hours a day with one knee bent under your chair and the other outstretched in front of you. Now, onward to why hamstrings get tight!
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Why Hamstrings Get Tight
Your hamstrings are typically tight because other muscles are not doing their job. You see, the way the body is built, there are really tiny muscles inside the hip. See the picture below to get a visual on these little heroes. Do you see how the big green bone (your femur) fits into the side of the pelvis like a ball? This makes the joint very unstable. Imagine a golf ball on a tee, then you’re going to step on it and try to stand on it without the ball falling off the tee. These little muscles that are highlighted are supposed to fasten that ball firmly into the socket. When they don’t, the hamstrings try to pull upwards, to stabilize the joint. You can see the shadow of the hamstrings just below the highlighted muscles.
Your next logical question might be “Well, why aren’t those muscles doing their job? Get back to work!” The answer is pretty straight forward. We spend most of our day going forwards when we walk, run, use the elliptical, squat, lunge etc. We don’t really spend a lot of time going sideways or rotating, which is exactly what these muscles are for. Over time, you develop an imbalance between these small stabilizers, and the big movers, so the brain starts using the big movers for stability AND movement. This leads to the hamstrings always feeling tight and overused. If you want to test this concept, and you have one hamstring that’s always tighter, try standing on one leg. Is it harder to balance on the leg of the tight hamstring? Even if the difference is slight, it means we’re on to something here!
Stretching tight hamstrings will NEVER work because they are tight for a reason, to give stability. Now that you know why hamstrings get tight, read on to find out how it causes low back pain and how to fix it!
Why Tight Hamstrings Contribute to Low Back Pain
When your hamstrings are always tight, they pull on your pelvis. They make you round your lower back with you’re bending over to pick something up, or look in the fridge. This puts a lot of tension on the muscles in the lower back, which can lead to muscle strain, compression between the joints. This can cause a variety of things to happen which can result in disc problems and/or sciatica. If you’re really curious you can read up on disc bulges and herniations here or learn about sciatica here.
The Answer To Solving Years of Tight Hamstrings…Finally!
How mad would you be if I told you to go stretch your hamstrings after knowing what you know now? Here’s the great news, we have helped thousands of people get rid of back pain without stretching their hamstrings. At this point you’re probably able to guess, that it has a lot to do with those small muscles in the back of your hip, well you’re right! You have to strength train these little muscles until they catch up to the big ones that are doing their job. Then, and ONLY then, will your hamstrings start to wave the white flag.
In order to strengthen these guys we’re hooking you up with one of the #1 exercises we use in our clinic to start you off. For this exercise, watch video #1 below. You’ll also experience faster relief if you download a copy of our free report below and start implementing some of the tips in there.
Give this a shot for a couple of weeks, and if you’re still experiencing issues give us a call. There are 45 muscles that attach to your pelvis, any one of them can over compensate for the others. Sometimes people need a more individualized approach, and we have seen this approach work for people who have had issues for well over 5, 10, or 25 years. Best of luck to you and let us know if we can be of assistance!