Tight hamstrings is a common problem we see, particularly amongst our male patients. There are many reasons this may occur; the hamstrings cross two joints, the hip and the knee, and they are held in shortened positions a lot throughout our day to day lives, particularly for sedentary people. They are also subjected to a lot of tensile forces. It doesn’t just make putting your shoes and socks on tricky – though this might be reason enough – but tight hamstrings may also contribute towards the development of lower back pain and knee pain, not to mention be more likely to strain or tear themselves.
The most common management for a tight hamstring is hamstring stretches. Research has shown an immediate improvement in hamstring length after stretching and improvements that are maintained after eight weeks of regular stretching, which is very promising. However, studies have shown that rather than actually increasing the length of the muscle, we are actually becoming more tolerant to the sensation of the stretch. The muscle length is staying more or less the same and if the stretches are not maintained, your tolerance to stretch will likely reduce with it. Furthermore, there is no evidence to support that regular stretching actually reduces the risk of injury to that muscle and some research suggests it might make you more likely to pull your hamstring during sport.
More research lately has brought forward an unlikely contender. Strengthening your hamstrings! More specifically, eccentrically strengthening your hamstrings, which simply means lengthening them while you place them under load. The length of the fascicles which make up our muscle fibres can increase by up to 34% after a programme of eccentric strengthening exercises. The passive stretch to the muscle can increase by an average of seven degrees and not only that, the increased strength in the muscle – particularly at greater ranges of motion where injury normally occurs – may be associated with a reduction in tearing and strain.
Eccentric strength exercises for the hamstrings includes deadlifts, Nordic drops and some bridging exercises. If you are suffering from tight hamstrings or recurrent issues with them, come in and see one of the team at HealthZone Physiotherapy who can complete a full assessment and provide you with the appropriate management plan to help getting you touching your toes again – or at least a bit closer!
Contact HealthZone Physiotherapy today on: (09) 477 2098