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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brandon

Why stretching your hamstrings doesn't fix back pain or sciatica

Ever wonder why hamstrings always feel so tight. Have you ever been told that back pain comes from hammies that are too tight? I made this same mistake when I was a personal trainer...always stretching the same hamstrings of my clients and their back pain would feel better for a little bit... but they nearly always came back next session with the same back pain and even tighter hamstrings. When I became a Physio, I learned why...the hamstrings are often the victims and not the cause.

Here are the basics...Our body has several sets of muscles that not only do the jobs of getting us around or picking up things, these muscles are often the protectors of other areas. In the case of the hamstrings, they protect the hips and low back. When our alarm is going off(either we are dealing with real damage, perceived damage, or just staying in 1 position too long) our body tells certain muscles to tighten up in order to protect the body(think those knots between your shoulder blades). It isn't the whole muscle that tightens up but a select area. In fact, if you are dealing with back pain, you can point to several areas on the back of your hips or hamstrings that are more tender than the rest of the muscle.

When we try to stretch the hamstrings-we may force them to loosen up, but...we often contribute to the problem in how we stretch them. Often that is by reaching forward, either sitting or standing, and reaching for our toes thus bending our back forward(i.e. the position most likely to injure our back). Instead of treating the cause, we are treating the victim.

Learn more about how to treat sciatica and low back pain.

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