Have pain in your back, knees or ankles? Is the idea of touching your toes laughable? Do you cringe at the idea of foam rolling your hamstrings? You might very well be hamstrung.
The hamstrings are very important muscles in the body that are constantly being used to accomplish daily activities as simple as walking. Most people have tight hamstrings leading to other problems as the body tries to compensate for this tightness. A look into the anatomy of the muscle gives us a better idea of how one muscle can cause back pain, knee pain and ankle pain, just to name a few.
The hamstrings attach from the pelvis on your sit bone, to just below the back of your knees on the tibia. If the muscle becomes tight, it causes a backwards pull on the knee which can cause irritation in it and cause pain. The back works in a similar way: by pulling on the pelvis, it will change the natural curve of the spine, which might lead to back pain. So how can we fix this?
Well one answer is simple: many people have tight hamstrings because most jobs involve sitting at a desk for a good portion of the day. Humans were not meant to be sitting down all day and as a result, the body was not made to accommodate sitting. When we sit, the hamstrings are in their shortened position, and so they shorten to the smaller length.
So what can we do about it?
- Walk around every 20 minutes…set your timer on your computer or watch
- Actively lengthen them either lying down or standing
Another problem is that many people have very weak glute (bum) muscles, which are the main movers in walking, stepping and propelling your body. If the glutes are not doing their job, the body is smart enough to realize this and forces the hamstrings to take up the slack.
- Lie on your back, knees bent at 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor. Clench your bum muscles tight, dig your heels into the ground, and lift your pelvis high enough so that you ankles, knees, thighs, and torso are in one line. Do 12 repetitions repeated 2-3x over to get your bum to work and NOT the hamstrings.