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Does Everyone Have Tight Hammies?

As part of our standard basic movement assessment in physical therapy, amongst many other movements we often ask patients to bend over and touch their toes. This request is either met with a laugh and a “I’ve never been able to do that!”, or the person then places their palms flat on the ground with no-problem. If you’re anything like me, you may be veering more toward the first option, and that’s okay! While we don’t need to all be able turn ourselves into pretzels, it is important to have some flexibility in your hamstrings, especially with certain injury histories or activities.

When I think about injury history and working on the hamstrings, 2 big things come to mind:

Low back pain - being really limited with hamstring flexibility can actually place more pressure on the lower back, especially when bending forward. This can also play a role in having extra tension around the sciatic nerve that runs down the back of our leg - if you’ve ever experienced sciatica, you know how unpleasant that nerve pain can be! So, improving hamstring flexibility in these situations especially can not only help with symptoms but decrease chance of flare/reinjury!

Knee pain - in many patients with knee issues, especially those with meniscus tears and arthritis, having flexible hamstrings is really important in managing pain while staying active! With squats, stairs, twisting, or balancing movements the hamstrings can certainly play a role in feeling increased pressure and pain through the knees when they start to pull on the knees too soon.

Other reasons to keep your hamstrings moving:

If participating in a sport involving a lot of running, jumping, or changing of directions, we rely on the hamstrings quite a bit for power, speed, and stability. We want them strong, but we also need them to be flexible to achieve these things. When we’re changing directions or kicking a ball, those muscles need to go from a shortened to a lengthened position pretty quickly - if they aren’t flexible enough, that’s not happening!

Believe it or not, there are many ways to stretch the hamstrings other than propping your leg on a wall or sitting trying to touch your toes (in fact, those are probably my least favorite ways of working on hamstring flexibility!). Check out the videos below for our go-to ways to work on the hamstrings - in general these tend to be more dynamic stretching

As with any muscle or group of muscles, flexibility is great, but doesn’t do us much good if that muscle isn’t also STRONG!


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