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

Do you move in all directions?

Most of us move primarily in one direction on a daily basis: forward. We walk forward, we sit and face forward to work on our computer or phone, and when wedrive or eat, we are also facing forward. Do you know that there are 5 other directions of movement that we should be doing regularly? Three planes of movement exist: 1) sagittal (forward and backward), 2) frontal (left and right), and
3) transverse (left and right rotation).

We must incorporate all of these motions on a regular basis to prevent muscle overuse and imbalances. Simply walking sideways, backwards, or doing rotational stretches throughout the day are good activities to do often. Also, incorporating exercises in all 3 planes helps to decrease your risk of developing muscle imbalance or overuse injuries. Some examples are lateral steps with a theraband, side lunges, backward lunges, Russian twists, and side planks.

Start treating yourself to a more balanced body by incorporating a variety of movements into both your daily life and your exercise program. If you need assistance, we’d be happy to perform a comprehensive evaluation to figure out what areas you need to focus on most.

Ryan Kahanu, DPT

Why everyone should be able to stand on one leg

Have you ever performed an exercise on one leg and thought to yourself, “when will I ever do this is real life?” This is a question patients sometimes bring up during their exercise program. Although it seems like we never balance on one leg during our daily life, we actually balance on one leg every moment that we are walking! When we walk, we transfer all of our weight onto one leg while we swing our other leg forward. We keep repeating this process until we reach our destination. If you are unable to balance on one leg for at least a few seconds with your eyes open, you may have compensations when walking. Over time, these compensations may lead to injury. A study by Springer et al showed the normative values of a single leg balance based on gender and age. Across all subjects, the average time for balancing on one leg was 33.4 seconds. In the clinic, my goal for most patients is to work up to performing the exercise for 30 seconds.
An easy way to test yourself is to stand in a doorway or near a stable object. Stand on one leg and time yourself. Also, make sure you are not leaning to the side. Keep your hips and shoulders in line with each other. If you feel you don’t have adequate stability or have a difficult time letting go of the stable object, it is a good idea to be evaluated by a physical therapist. You may have some underlying weaknesses that can be treated to decrease your risk of injury.

By Ryan Kahanu, PT, DPT

Stretch Pro

Article cited in this blog:
Springer, B., Marin, R., Cyhan, T. et al. Normative values for the unipedal stance test with eyes open and closed. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. 2007; 30(1):8-15.

Runner’s Knee

Is your pain really coming from your knee?

Many runners suffer from runner’s knee, also known as iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS). The iliotibial (IT) band originates in the pelvis as the tensor fascia lata (TFL). The TFL can become overused when we don’t use enough of our glutes during activities. The gluteus medius is an important lateral hip stabilizer, but since running is a strictly forward motion, this muscle can become underactive. When the gluteus medius becomes weak, the TFL has to carry the load. Eventually, though, the TFL can’t handle the burden, and runners will start to notice pain at its attachment at the kneecap. The IT band attaches to the lateral patella. If the IT band becomes excessively tight, it can pull on the patella, leading to knee pain.
To treat this condition, the IT band needs to be stretched and lengthened. More importantly, however, the gluteus medius muscle needs to be strengthened. By strengthening your glutes, you decrease the load to the TFL and IT band. Also, when running, keep your knees in line with your toes. Your knees may be falling inward, also placing strain on your knees.
Come to Stretch Pro to have an evaluation by a physical therapist so that we can create the right plan for you to get you back to running pain free!

By Ryan Kahanu, PT, DPT

Stretch Pro

Treating Ankle Sprains

If you have ever had an ankle sprain, you know how significantly the sprain affected every movement you made. Ligaments don’t have as good a blood supply as bone and muscle. Therefore, it takes them longer to heal. Knowing what to do once you get a sprain, all the way through until weeks after, will help to decrease any compensations and injury risk in the future. Because your foot is the first part of your body to contact the floor when you walk, any alteration in your foot mechanics will affect the entire body. As soon as possible after injury, be sure to ice and elevate the foot and ankle in order to decrease pain, swelling, and inflammation. Keep the foot in a brace to provide support and to decrease pooling of blood and fluid into the foot.
It is also a good idea to see your doctor to get any imaging and medication
prescribed. You may be provided crutches as well to help decrease weight bearing to the foot. If you use a cane or one crutch, be sure to use the crutch on the side opposite of the injured foot. Too often people place the crutch or cane on the same side as the injured foot. This, however, may lead the person to bend his or her spine towards the injury. I highly recommend getting an evaluation by a physical therapist to ensure that your gait is as normal as possible to prevent any compensation, and to know what range of motion exercises you should start doing right away to prevent your ankle from getting stiff.

By Ryan Kahanu, PT, DPT

Stretch Pro


Can your headache be caused by tight neck muscles?

If you are currently experiencing pain in the low back, there may be several reasons for your symptoms. There may be spasms in the muscles, you may have a problem with one or a few discs, you may have a pinched nerve, or your back may be simply moving and working more than it should be.
A common impairment I see in patients who come to physical therapy for low back pain is that their hips are both weak and tight. When we walk, run, bend forward to pick up an object, or stand for prolonged periods, there are certain range of motion and strength requirements from our hip muscles, such as the hip flexors and glutes. If these muscles aren’t supporting our body adequately during these tasks, our spine and spinal muscles will need to compensate. When these muscles work harder or our spine moves excessively, irritation or inflammation can begin, which leads to an onset of pain. This is also a reason why there are failed back surgeries or negative findings in MRIs or Xrays.
When a physical therapist performs an initial evaluation, he or she will perform tests for your back, of course, but will also test other joints, such as your hips, knees, and ankles. More often than not, the site of pain is not where the cause is. By improving flexibility and strength in the hips, you will help to decrease your risk of developing pain. If you currently have pain, I would suggest focusing on hip stretches and exercises. Better yet, set up an initial evaluation to get a full assessment by a physical therapist.

By Ryan Kahanu, PT, DPT

Stretch Pro

Your hip inflexibility or weakness may be contributing to your lower back pain

If you are currently experiencing pain in the low back, there may be several reasons for your symptoms. There may be spasms in the muscles, you may have a problem with one or a few discs, you may have a pinched nerve, or your back may be simply moving and working more than it should be.
A common impairment I see in patients who come to physical therapy for low back pain is that their hips are both weak and tight. When we walk, run, bend forward to pick up an object, or stand for prolonged periods, there are certain range of motion and strength requirements from our hip muscles, such as the hip flexors and glutes. If these muscles aren’t supporting our body adequately during these tasks, our spine and spinal muscles will need to compensate. When these muscles work harder or our spine moves excessively, irritation or inflammation can begin, which leads to an onset of pain. This is also a reason why there are failed back surgeries or negative findings in MRIs or Xrays.
When a physical therapist performs an initial evaluation, he or she will perform tests for your back, of course, but will also test other joints, such as your hips, knees, and ankles. More often than not, the site of pain is not where the cause is. By improving flexibility and strength in the hips, you will help to decrease your risk of developing pain. If you currently have pain, I would suggest focusing on hip stretches and exercises. Better yet, set up an initial evaluation to get a full assessment by a physical therapist.

By Ryan Kahanu, PT, DPT

Stretch Pro