What are Tight Hamstrings?


The three muscles that make up the hamstrings are the biceps femoris, semi-tendinosus, and semi-membranosus.

Because of these three muscles, it is possible to extend your leg straight behind your body and to bend your knee. When any one of these three muscles stretches beyond its limit during exercise or sporting activity, a hamstring injury can result from the strain or pull on the muscle.

Two Primary Functions

The hamstrings’ two primary functions are to flex the knee joint and extend the hips, and they are very critical in ensuring a normal range of joint movement. Unfortunately, short hamstrings are a common occurrence and when this is the case, the body compensates for this by increasing pressure on the lumbar spine.

Hamstring Injuries

Hamstring injuries happen when tight hamstring muscles are stretched too far and muscle fibers end up tearing. Sudden sprints or other fast or twisting motions with your legs are a major cause of hamstring injuries. Because of this, you may be more likely to get a hamstring injury if you play soccer, tennis, basketball, football or a similar sport that involves sprinting with sudden stops and starts. Dancers and runners can suffer hamstring injuries as well.

Tight hamstring muscles are very common and most of the time they will not cause serious problems. However, people who have tight hamstrings are more prone to severe strains, or their tight hamstrings can contribute to other problems such as back pain.

In addition to having an increased risk of injury, athletes who have tight hamstrings may discover that the tight hamstrings affect their sports performance and makes activities such as high hurdling or martial arts very difficult. When a tight hamstring muscle is forced to move at speed outside of its comfortable range, it greatly increases the chance the muscle will tear.

Tight hamstrings can cause back problems because they force your hips and pelvis to rotate back which flattens the lower back. Tight hamstrings can also be responsible for problems with your posture and other back problems such as sacroiliac joint pain because they will tend to pull the pelvis out of its normal position.

What can cause painful or tight hamstrings?

Short Hamstrings: Some people are just born with naturally short hamstrings while some people are naturally supple. As a general rule, women and children tend to be more flexible than men.

Inadequate stretching: If you are physically active and do not stretch properly, then you are more likely to have tight hamstrings. It is especially important to stretch properly after exercise because the muscles are warm and more receptive to stretching then.

Improper warm-ups: A proper warm-up is necessary to prepare your hamstring muscles prior to strenuous athletic activities.

Overtraining: Many times athletes push themselves more than their tight hamstrings can handle. This overtraining causes athletes to become more susceptible to injury. It can sometimes take years to work up to a high volume of training and even then, athletes must make good choices to balance their workouts with their lifestyles.

Adhesions and scar tissue:  Adhesions and scar tissue in the hamstrings and associated muscles will not only affect athletic performance, they can also cause tight hamstrings.

Age: As you age, your muscles lose flexibility, making it easier to suffer from a hamstring injury if you have tight hamstrings.

Experiencing lower leg pain?

Learn more about tight hamstrings symptoms.

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