The hamstrings are crucial to many everyday activities, such as walking, running, and jumping. Therefore, tight hamstrings, whether a result of overworking or injuries, could significantly hinder our ability to move through our daily life fluently.
Unfortunately, injuries to hamstrings are common given how active they are during our daily activities. In this article, we’ll talk about the common causes and symptoms of tight hamstrings, how to care for injured hamstrings, and stretches and exercises you can easily do at home to relieve tight hamstrings.
Where are Hamstrings Located
The hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh, running from the bottom of the pelvis to just below the back of the knee. Specifically, they originate from a bony protrusion on the bottom of the pelvis and extend down to the tibia and fibula bones in the lower leg, crossing the knee joint.
The hamstrings are composed of three muscles: biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. Together, they work with the quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh to control movement at the knee joint.
What Causes Tight Hamstrings
There are several factors that can cause tight hamstrings, most commonly:
- Prolonged Sitting or Standing: Similar with why desk workers may suffer from neck and shoulder pain, prolonged sitting, standing, or holding in one position in general can lead to tight hamstrings.
- Overuse or Injury: Excessive running or cycling is another common cause for tight hamstrings. Hamstrings injuries can also lead to scar tissue formation, causing the tight and stiff feeling.
- Muscle imbalances: If you have weak quadriceps muscles or tight hip flexors, it can cause your hamstrings to compensate and become tight as a result.
- Age: As we age, our muscles naturally become stiffer and less flexible. This can contribute to tight hamstrings.
- Structural Issues: Some people are simply more prone to tight hamstrings due to the way their bodies are structured. For example, if you have a naturally short hamstring muscle belly, it can lead to tightness.
Tight Hamstrings Symptoms
Luckily, there are some obvious signs if your hamstrings are tight or hurt. The most obvious symptoms of tight hamstrings are:
- Back pain
- Knee pain
- Limited motion range or difficulty to bend
- Stiffness when you move around
- Feeling out of balance
- Change in posture, gait, movement patterns
Tight Hamstrings Back Pain
Tight hamstrings are one of the main causes of lower back pain. When the hamstrings are tight, they pull on the pelvis and cause it to tilt forward, increasing the curvature of the lower spine. This can put pressure on the discs and muscles of the lower back, leading to pain and discomfort.
To help alleviate lower back pain caused by tight hamstrings, stretch and release tension in the hamstrings with regular stretching exercises mentioned below. This can help lengthen and loosen the muscles, reducing the strain on the lower back.
Tight Hamstrings Knee Pain
Tight hamstrings can also lead to knee pain, particularly around the kneecap. When the hamstrings are tight, they can alter the lower limb biomechanics, which results in compensations and stress on the knee joint.
Additionally, tight hamstrings can also affect the alignment of the knee joint, leading to abnormal tracking of the patella and causing further stress and pain.
Stretches for Tight Hamstrings
It’s important to maintain a blanched exercise program with stretching and strengthening exercises while being mindful of your body’s limits to reduce risks of injury. Talk to a physical therapist or a personal trainer if you want a personalized exercise plan or have existing conditions..
Meanwhile, below are a few stretches for tight hamstrings you can easily do at home.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Slowly hinge forward from your hips, keeping your back straight, and reach your hands towards your toes. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then slowly come back up to standing.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Lean forward from your hips, keeping your back straight, and reach towards your toes. Hold for 30 seconds.
Single-leg Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg off the ground and extend it straight up towards the ceiling. Place a towel or yoga strap around the ball of your foot, and gently pull your leg towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your hamstring. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Start in a low lunge position with one foot forward and one foot back. Place your hands on the ground on either side of your front foot, and then straighten your front leg, keeping your hands on the ground. This should create a stretch in your hamstring. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Start on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Lift your hips up towards the ceiling, straightening your arms and legs to create an inverted V-shape with your body. Hold for 30 seconds. Downward Dog is also a great yoga pose for lower back pain.
Calf Massage For Tight Hamstrings
Calf massage can indirectly relieve tight hamstrings because calf muscles are connected to the hamstrings through a complex network of fascia and tendons, and tightness or dysfunction in one area can affect the other.
When the calf muscles are tight or overworked, they can pull on the hamstrings, causing them to become tense and contracted. By massaging the calf muscles, you can release tension and improve circulation, which can help reduce the strain on the hamstrings and alleviate tightness. Calf massage also has other benefits like improving overall muscle flexibility and mobility.
Do I Need a Calf Massager?
There are plenty of ways to massage your calves yourself at home. Or, you can always go to a massage therapist. But you know what we always say: if there are easier ways to get things done, why not?
That is why we highly recommend you to invest in one of the best ankle and calf shiatsu foot massagers. The Miko MAS 2 massager features deep tissue massage, kneading, heat, and vibration, and can be set on a timer for your convenience. This one little device will take away so much of your leg, calf, and foot pain, especially if you already suffer with other issues.
And if you don’t believe our words, listen to our customers. Check out the MAS 2 Foot Massager reviews here.
How to Massage Sore Calves
If you're nowhere near your massager, but need an instant pain relief, try give yourself an emergency calf massage. Massage your sore calves one side at a time. Wrap your hands around the ankle and massage the calf muscles with long, upward strokes. Use your palm, thumb, or knuckles to apply more pressure alone the tight hamstrings or anywhere you feel a knot.
Do you know what causes tight hamstrings now? And we hope you were taking notes on the symptoms and easy home tight hamstring exercises we mentioned!
Generally, stretching and exercising can help improve hamstring flexibility, strength, and overall health. You should also look into ways to prevent or manage injuries if you’re already struggling with tight hamstrings. Protecting your hamstrings can improve your overall health and prevent injuries during work or sports, so be sure to put some extra effort in!
Finally, always consult a doctor or physical therapist if your tight hamstrings are causing too much pain. It’s better safe than sorry!