Tight Hamstrings

Why your hamstrings are constantly tight.

Do you feel like the muscles in the back of your thighs are tight all the time? No matter how much you stretch them, the tension doesn’t ever seem to go away. There are multiple versions of hamstring stretches – lying on your back with your leg up, holding onto a strap; standing with your foot on a stool, leg straight, and leaning forward; or simply bending forward to touch your toes. Sometimes the reason for the never-ending tightness is not due to the fact that your hamstrings are tight – they may be overworking.

The hamstrings are a muscle group consisting of 3 muscles – semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris (which has a long and short head). These muscles originate in the pelvis and travel down that back of the thigh, eventually attaching below the knee. The function of this muscle is to extend the hip, bend the knee, and control the forward motion of the leg (as when performing a leg kick). Our glute muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus, are prone to being weak due to our lifestyle or other potential compensations. Because the glutes and hamstrings have similar functions, they can help each other out…. which sometimes can lead to problems. 

If your glute muscles have weakened, your hamstrings will have to work extra hard for all tasks that require both muscle groups, such as walking, stair climbing, squatting, jumping, and running. If you notice that your hamstrings are constantly tight, or you have a history of hamstring muscle strains, it may be a good idea to test the strength of your glutes. A physical therapist can watch different movements and perform tests to figure out if your body has developed compensations, and prescribe the appropriate treatment for you. 

If you find yourself saying you’ve always had tight hamstrings, or if you’ve stopped by our studios and always ask for treatment on your hamstrings, go ahead and have your glute strength assessed. You may be surprised. 

Ryan Kahanu, DPT
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