Low Back Pain And The Hamstrings

Have you ever considered how important your hamstring muscles are to your lower back?  Most people do not think about those tight muscles on the back of the upper leg/thigh as having much to do with low back pain.  However, it is important to keep the hamstrings loose to improve current low back trouble and prevent future low back pain.  Think of the hamstrings as a stabilizing guide wire that keeps us upright.  When we bend over with our knees straight, we can feel the hamstrings gradually tighten, often keeping us from reaching our toes.  When the hamstrings are too tight, some of us can hardly reach past our kneecaps as we bend over!

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The low back is only so flexible and in reality, most of our ability to touch our toes comes from our hip joints.  Most people with tight hamstrings will often make up for the loss of low back movement by increasing hip motion and still be able to touch their toes!  This however can only be accomplished if the hamstrings are stretched to a point of allowing the hips and pelvis to rotate forward when bending the knees straight.

Hamstrings-forward-fold-illustration

So what happens when hamstrings are too tight?  Think of a young sapling tree versus an old oak branch.  When bending the two branches, the young sapling can easily bend, while the old oak branch breaks early into the process.  Similarly as we bend over to lift a box, if the back,  leg muscles, ligaments, and tendons are ALL tight… something has to “give” or break similar to the old oak branch.

The weak link in the injured person bending over may be a disc that ruptures or a ligament that overstretches and tears.  By keeping the hamstrings loose (like the young sapling branch) much less force is placed on the spine because the pelvis can rock forwards during the bending process, thus unloading the spine.  Another way to look at it is that when the hamstrings are too tight, something else has to be loose to make up for the tight hamstrings or else bending forwards and performing daily tasks will be limited.

By keeping our hamstrings loose, we reduce the need for our spine to have to make up for the tightness.

Hamstring_stretch

The best way to stretch the hamstrings is to lay on our back against a doorway or wall with one leg placed on the edge and the other leg is kept flat on the floor with the knee straight.  Scoot as close as you can so that the hamstring muscles are stretched tightly to the point of a “good hurt”  Maintain that position for at least two minutes and then switch legs.  Because the hamstrings tighten up during sleep, its usually best to perform the stretch in the morning.  Repeating this multiple times a day may be required to obtain proper hamstring muscle length.

Content Courtesy of Chiro-Trust.org. All Rights Reserved.

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