Tight Hamstrings? Or is it Something Else?

People often mention to us that they have tight hamstrings. This is generally accompanied with a quick rub of the area and a face being made that resembles an “Oooh” kind of expression. But what do these people mean when they say they have a tight hamstring?

More often than not they’re referring to the fact they may have over done it the last time they went for a jog/run/swim/cycle. And that’s fine, because if you’re not moving you’re not really living, in our opinion. But sometimes hamstrings are tight for other reasons.

Of course, if a muscle over-exerts itself (you potentially over-doing it with speed/distance or not being warmed up properly, to name a few reasons why the back of your leg now hurts) it will try to protect itself from further injury. Normally this happens with those horrible involuntary muscle spasms which prevent further movement, and therefore minimise the risk of further injury. You also get the added bonus of a whopping great deal of stiffness and tightness once everything’s calmed down.

But if a muscle is just tight it may be just that: tight.

While the commonly held notion that a tight muscle = a weak muscle, more recent research has started to move away from this idea. As it’s already been at the forefront in many ways regarding sport and exercise science, it’s the cyclists that have begun to break down the notion that tight doesn’t mean weak.

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Physiotherapists, massage therapists, and scientists have all begun to realise that because of the way professional cyclists have their bikes set up (with the saddle above handlebars, leaning forward for a more aerodynamic position… think Bradley Wiggins), with that near-straight leg and forward-leaning torso, their hamstrings are on an incredible stretch, i.e. tight.

But having done their research, these cyclists have been found to have some incredibly strong hamstrings. Which kind of blows the old-school views out of the water.

However, hamstrings can also be tight because other muscles are tight. If a person has tight flexors, as shown in the diagram, this can have the knock-on effect of pulling the hamstrings tighter as the pelvis rotates forward.

This same “anterior tilt” of the pelvis can explain why some people also experience lower back pain. Of course, this highlights the importance of a good, neutral posture!

So tight hamstrings aren’t always a bad thing, and sometimes they’re tight because other things are tight. Of course it’s quite hard for you to work out what those ‘other things’ are! So if you’d like some help working out what’s happening, and releasing everything off, contact us to book a sports massage.