Muscle tightness is usually common and might not be a cause of concern always. Intense exercise or physical activities generally results in Tight hamstrings, which can cause stiffness and also limit mobility. However, in most cases, tight hamstrings can be treated by various means, which we will be discussing in the following array of the article.
So, read below to know how to treat and prevent tight hamstrings.
Cause of Tight Hamstring
Tight hamstrings can occur due to intense exercise and it can make it hard for you to comfortably walk or stand, which might affect your daily life.
The hamstrings are a group of muscles running down the back of your leg. There are 3 hamstring muscles, namely, bicep femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. These muscles support bodily movements like running, jumping, and walking.(1)
Tight hamstrings can affect these bodily movements and also limit your mobility. One might feel stiff and less flexible. In a few cases, tight hamstrings might occur along with other symptoms like pain, cramping, swelling, tenderness, bruising, and redness. Tight hamstrings can also increase the risk of injury.
The most common cause of tight hamstrings is exercise or any form of intense activity. Exercises that put substantial strain on your hamstrings can result in tightness. Say for, example, doing hamstring curl exercises or playing soccer and few other sports that would target the hamstring muscles.
The tightness would generally occur after beginning a new exercise routine or suddenly increasing the intensity of your workout. Some might experience tight hamstrings after sitting for a long time or after long periods of inactivity.(2,3) For example, sitting at the desk for many hours might cause muscle tightness.
In other cases, tight hamstrings might be because of injury, mostly a recurring injury that makes your hamstrings more vulnerable to tightness. Hamstring tightness can also be a sign of a strain or sprain in the area.(4)
How To Treat Tight Hamstring?
The tightness of hamstrings can occur when you play sports like soccer or tennis that involve a lot of sprinting or stop-and-start movement. Even running and dancing can cause tight hamstrings.
You should keep the hamstring muscles loose since tight hamstrings might be more prone to strain or tearing. If you feel pain in the hamstrings, you should consult with your doctor. Various stretches, yoga, and other treatment methods can help you treat tight hamstrings. Let us know some of the ways about how to treat a tight hamstring.
Stretches For Tight Hamstring:
Stretches are one of the simplest and easiest ways to relieve the tightness of your hamstrings. They can be easily done almost anywhere and would require no or little equipment.
Standing Hamstring Stretch: This hamstring stretch can be done easily. First, stand straight with your spine in a neutral position. Now, place your right leg in front and slightly bend your left knee. Then lean forward gently while placing your hands on your bent right leg. Make sure that your back remains straight to avoid hunching over your leg.
Hold this stretch for at least 10 seconds and work up to 30 seconds.
Repeat the same with your other leg, and again with both your legs at least 2-3 times total.
Seated Hamstring Stretch 1:To perform this seated hamstring stretch you should sit on the ground in the butterfly position. Extend the right leg by bending your knee slightly. Then bend forwards at your waist over the right leg. For support, you might hold your lower leg, but make sure you don’t force the stretch. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds and work up to 30 secs.
Repeat the same with the other leg. Do this stretch with each leg 2-3 times in total.
Seated Hamstring Stretch 2:Grab 2 chairs and place them face to face. Now, sit in one chair, by extending your right leg onto the other chair. Lean forward until a stretch in your hamstring could be felt. Hold this for 10 seconds and work up to 30 secs.
Repeat the same with the other leg. Do this stretch with each leg 2-3 times.
Lying Hamstring Stretch 1: This Lying hamstring stretch can be done by lying down on the ground with the back flat on the feet by bending your knees and keeping your feet flat on the ground. Slowly bring the right knee to the chest. Now, extend the leg while keeping your knee slightly bent. To deepen the stretch you might make use of a yoga strap, but do not tug on it very hard. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and then work up to 30 secs.
Repeat with the other leg. Then repeat the stretch with each leg at least 2-3 times in total.
Lying Hamstring Stretch 2: There is another hamstring stretch that can be done by lying down flat on the ground. Simply lie down flat on your back and extend your legs completely. For this lying stretch, you will also require to be near the corner of a wall or any doorway.
Raise the right leg while keeping the knee slightly bent and place your heel on the wall. Now, slowly straighten the right leg until a stretch in your hamstring could be felt.
Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and work up to 30 secs.
Repeat the same with your other leg. Do this stretch with each leg 2-3 times. As you attain more flexibility, try to move quite closer to the wall to feel a deeper stretch.
Yoga For Tight Hamstring:
Yoga stretches can also be helpful to treat tight hamstrings. If you are taking a yoga class, let your instructor know that you have tight hamstrings. They might have modifications that you can try or let you know about specific yoga poses that might help you with your tight hamstrings.
Downward Dog: This is one of the most essential yoga poses that you try for treating tight hamstrings. Start the yoga pose by placing your hands and knees on the floor. Then lift the knees and send your tailbone towards the ceiling. Now, slowly straighten your legs. Tight hamstrings might make it difficult for you to do this yoga pose, so you can keep your knees slightly bent. However, make sure that you keep your spine straight. Take a few deep breaths now or hold it for however long your yoga instructor directs you doing.
Extended Triangle Pose: To do the extended triangle pose, start in a standing position, and then move the legs about 3-4 feet apart. Now, reach out your arms parallel to the ground by keeping your palms facing down. Next, turn the right foot in towards the left foot and your left foot out 90 degrees. Make sure you keep your heels in line with each other. Now, bend slowly, your torso over the left leg, and reach your left hand to the ground. You should stretch the right arm towards the ceiling. Hold this for 30 seconds to 60 seconds, or as much time as directed by your yoga instructor.
Repeat the same on the other side.
One more way to treat tight hamstrings is by massage therapy. You can make an appointment with a massage therapist. The therapists use their hands for manipulating the muscles and other soft tissues in your body. Massage might help you get relief from stress, pain, or muscle tension.
You might take the help of your primary care doctor to know about a licensed massage therapist or might search the American Massage Therapy Association’s database and find the best practitioners in your area.
A qualified massage therapist would target the specialized muscles and soft tissues in your legs to loosen the tight hamstrings.
Physical therapy might be beneficial if your hamstrings are severely tight or strained. You might consult with a physical therapist and know about the best physical therapies for your condition. Your therapist might ask you about your medical history and various physical activities or sports that you do or are engaged with. They might also perform some tests to assess the condition of your hamstrings.
Then your physical therapist would guide you with a variety of exercises, stretches, and other specific treatments that are specific to your requirements.
Treating Tight Hamstrings With Foam Rollers:
Foam rollers can be beneficial in stretching out and loosening your muscles. Most gyms are foam rollers that can be used. However, if you do not belong to any gym, you can buy the foam rollers if you experience tight hamstrings regularly.
To roll out your hamstrings, you should sit on the floor with the foam rollers under your right thigh. Your left leg might remain on the ground for support. Keeping your arms behind you, roll your hamstring, the complete back of the thigh, from the bottom of your buttocks to the knees. During this exercise, focus on the abdominal muscles.
Keep your core engaged and make sure your back is straight. Slowly continue rolling for 30 seconds to 120 seconds. Repeat this with the other leg and try rolling out your hamstrings 3 times each week.
Foam rollers might also be used to get relief from back pain and loosen various muscles of your body like calves, glutes, and quads.
How To Prevent Tight Hamstring?
To prevent tight hamstrings you should stretch the muscles regularly.(5) You can include the stretches in your normal workout routine.
One more way to prevent tight hamstring is to try yoga or any other flexibility-based physical activity regularly.
Though some studies suggest that stretching could prevent the risk of a hamstring injury, other research has shown that stretching is ineffective as a preventive measure for an injury.(6)
Strengthening your leg muscles may help in preventing tightness of the hamstring. Squats, deadlifts, hamstring curls, calf raises, lunges, box jumps, sing-leg deadlifts, are some exercises that target the leg muscles.
Apart from all these, try to avoid long periods of inactivity to help prevent tight hamstrings. If you are in a desk job, try to take a break from sitting for hours in one place and do some stretches or go for a short walk.
When To See A Doctor?
If you experience pain or tight hamstrings frequently, you should see your doctor. Pain that does not go away, might be a sign of an injury. Apart from this, swelling or tenderness, tearing sensation, sudden sharp pain, discoloration, or bruising are some other symptoms of injury. So, consult with your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Most cases of tight hamstrings could be treated at home. Usually, the tightness goes away on its own, but stretching or yoga would help loosen the muscles. However, you can consult with your physical therapist or massage therapist to get better and quicker relief from a tight hamstring.
But make sure that if you experience intense pain, swelling, muscle weakness, and difficulty walking or standing, see your doctor without any delay. If such symptoms occur after acute trauma, they might indicate a hamstring injury. You might experience an injury after a fall or a sporting accident.
Do not let the symptoms of a tight hamstring slow you down. Try to get yourself treated at the earliest by stretching, yoga’s, or other treatment methods, and get back on track. If you have tight hamstrings that are painful, do not hesitate to have an appointment with your doctor. Usually, tight hamstrings are not a big concern. So, don’t be panic and try to loosen your muscles gently under the supervision of your therapist or doctor.