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Facts on Tight Hamstring Muscles

by 
author image Kelsey Casselbury
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park and formal education in fitness and nutrition. Collins is an experienced blogger, editor and designer, who specializes in nutrition, fitness, weddings, food and parenting topics. She has been published in association and consumer publications, along with daily newspapers such as The Daily Times (Salisbury, Md.)
Facts on Tight Hamstring Muscles
Get the facts on tight hamstrings. Photo Credit: fizkes/iStock/GettyImages

If you think you have tight hamstrings, you're not alone — it's a rare person who doesn't suffer from this problem. In many cases, a person won't have an issues related to tight hamstrings; however, the tightness can cause low back and hip pain, as well as decrease athletic performance.

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The purpose of your hamstrings are pretty straightforward: They extend the hip and flex the knee. However, those two tasks are harder than they sound, so the hamstrings' tissue is fairly tough. Additionally, the back of your thighs features a bunch of fascial tissue. Put those two together, and it means those hammies are tight and hard to stretch.

Read more: Care for Painful Tight Hamstrings

The Problem With Tight Hamstrings

When your hamstrings tighten up, it forces the hips and pelvis to rotate back. This, in turn, flattens the lower back and causes pain. Additionally, by pulling the pelvis out of its natural position, tight hamstrings can cause sacroiliac joint pain. Further down, it's not uncommon to experience pain deep within the tush because of those tight hamstrings.

Beyond pain, tight hamstrings also affect your performance on the sports field or in the gym. When you force those tight hams to move outside of its comfortable range, such as when you're kicking a box or doing a martial arts move, the risk of a tear increases.

Potential Causes

There's no one reason for tight hamstrings. It might not even be your fault — genetics can be the culprit for tight hamstrings. Some people (usually men) are naturally born with shorter hamstrings.

However, tight hamstrings can also be caused by a lack of stretching, particularly if you're an active person. After you exercise, it's vital to stretch for about 10 minutes to keep those muscles supple — otherwise, you'll suffer the consequences.

Poor footwear might also cause tight hamstrings. Shoes with raised and cushions heals can shift your hips forward when standing, placing a burden on the hamstrings. The glutes, as a result, are underdeveloped and the hamstring grow tighter.

Read more: Tight Hamstrings After Running

Loosening the Hamstrings

Loosen up those tight hamstrings with static or dynamic stretches. Static stretches are the type that you move into position and hold. After about 6 seconds, your brain sends signals to the muscle to allow you to relax into the stretch.

The static seated hamstring stretch is a classic move — sit on the floor with one leg stretched in front of you and the other bent . Lean forward until you feel the stretch in the hamstring, and hold for about 30 seconds. your body relaxes into the stretch

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, requires a lot of gentle movement. For example, stand up straight and gently swing your leg forward and backward, gradually getting higher with each swing. You should feel the stretch briefly in the back of the thigh.

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