“WHY DO MY HAMSTRINGS FEEL SO TIGHT ALL THE TIME?”
We hear this alllll the time. Clients are always asking why their hamstrings seem to feel so tight when they stretch and foam roll so frequently. There is a quote by Ida Rolf, the creator of Rolfing, that says, “Where you think it is, it ain’t.” As massage therapists, we use this thinking a lot and it can help you figure out where your hamstring tightness may be originating from! If massaging your hamstrings alone doesn’t seem to be helping, here are 3 other things to check out that may help.
1. MAYBE IT IS A STABILITY PROBLEM
If there is a core stability issue, that could potentially cause tension. In the case of your hamstrings, if you bend down for a toe touch and your core isn’t stable, your body is going to want to keep you from falling forward. Your hamstrings will kick in and pull your body back, creating the tension in the hamstrings you feel. You can test this by first staying loose and bending down to touch your toes. See how far you are able to go. Then you will do it again, but this time first brace your core. Bracing will be covered in another post, but a good cue for bracing is to cough. That feeling in your abdomen is what you should feel during a brace. Once you brace your core, bend down again. You might notice that you can stretch down further! This shows that you should practice your bracing while stretching and by building that stability, you will increase your hamstring flexibility.
2. CHECK THE OPPOSITE MUSCLE GROUPS
Sometimes the opposite muscle groups overwork. For example, if we are looking at the hamstrings, the opposite muscle group would be the quadriceps (on the front of the thigh). When those muscles overwork and make your body feel like it is being pulled forward (into flexion), your hamstrings are again going to kick into gear to pull you back. So the hamstring tightness you feel, may actually be quadriceps tightness. For this you can foam roll or perform other self massage techniques to the muscles on the front of the upper thigh.
3. CHECK MUSCLES DOWN THE SAME LINE
No muscle works alone. There are multiple muscles that can perform the same actions and ones that also assist that action. Sometimes there are muscles in a group that overwork to help other muscles. These are compensations we build up. For example here, the action of the hamstrings is extension (bringing the leg backwards) and a larger muscle that also does that is the glute. By performing glute activation exercises, such as bridging, that can help make those muscles stronger so the hamstrings don’t have to work as hard! This will help alleviate that feeling of “tightness.”
SHOULD YOU STILL DO SELF MASSAGE AND FOAM ROLL?
Absolutely! Self massage can help alleviate the feeling of tension. However, you may find it keeps on coming back. So these are other things you can look at to find out why it keeps coming back.