Active Seniors

Tight hamstrings – the chicken, the egg or the ham?

Tight hamstrings are a very common complaint among people, but sometimes what feels like tightness is actually our bodys way of protecting itself. A key giveaway that this is true is recurrent “tightness” despite regular stretching. When our muscles are tight they can restrict the motion in a joint. If flexibility is the real issue that limits joint movement, it responds very well to regular stretching and mobility exercises.

The more common reason that the hamstrings become “tight” is to compensate for a lack of stability. Take a simple task like bending forward to reach your toes. What seems straight-forward in nature often involves more coordination that we think. You see to bend forward we need to move to counter balance our weight otherwise we would simply tip forward. To achieve this counter balance our body has to use its stabiliser muscles to “shift” its weight accordingly so that we are constantly centred between our feet.

In the event that we are unable to manage these challenges to our balance and stabiliser muscles, our body literally stops us from bending any further forward. It does this by contracting the hamstrings, as this stops our spine and pelvis from moving further forward.

Too often people make the mistake of thinking that by simply stretching out the “tight” muscles, they should be able to reach their toes. If the tension in our muscles is simply protecting our body from harm, stretching alone will not change the situation and in essence is treating the symptom rather than addressing the cause.

So the next time your muscles feel “tight”, remember that flexibility may not necessarily be the problem.

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