When it comes to back pain, you’d be forgiven for thinking that directly trying to stretch or treat your back itself is going to be the only way to deal with a problem. Very often, an all-encompassing approach that takes into account the back as well as other structures that connect to the spine is going to be useful. Tight hamstrings can be a common contributor to lower back pain. These are the muscles at the back of the thigh, running from the hip to the knee. Tightness here can place more stress on the lower back as they’re short and can pull directly on your back. It’s important to note here that your hamstrings potentially being tight is likely not going to be the only cause of your back pain, but it might well be contributing towards making the problem worse.

How Do Tight Hamstrings Affect Your Back?

The body is so interconnected that it can be difficult to only injure one area, this is why looking to other areas might help when it comes to back pain. A reduction in your spinal curve can contribute towards hamstring issues, which can in turn feedback more pressure into the lower back. You might experience a reduction in spinal curve if you frequently sit with poor posture, whether that be during the day or in the evening if you slouch in bed or on the sofa watching Netflix. At the time of writing this article, we’re currently on lockdown and not able to leave the house. If you’re working at home or furloughed during this time, you’re likely to be spending a great deal of time sitting down. But not taking care of your posture during this time could well lead to you experiencing a reduction in your spinal curve, so do make sure you’re sitting with good posture throughout the day. Reduction in spinal curve can cause muscle tension, soreness and spasms into the hamstrings that then put pressure in the lower back.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Stretching Your Hamstrings

In the video at the top of this page, we demonstrated a very inefficient but common way of stretching the hamstrings. If you have any kind of sports background or have participated in a class at the gym, you might know generally a way to stretch your hamstrings. This is usually to lean (either standing or with the support of a chair/wall) with your bottom pushed back to elongate the hamstring. The leg you’re stretching usually remains straight and the other leg slightly bent as a support. However, knowing how to position the rest of your body is going to make a huge difference in isolating the hamstring and doing a more efficient stretch. First of all, stretching your hamstrings by hinging at the hip joint and retaining that natural spinal curve are the primary movements you’ll want to consider. It’s a very common mistake to elongate the leg and then flop forwards at the waist to try and touch your toes, but this is not going to be helpful and will cause more compression in the lower back. This stretch is simply not specific enough and pulls the whole length of the leg and back, rather than isolating the hamstring. Try instead to keep the spine in a neutral position as we show and lean your bottom backwards into the stretch, rather than fold forward. You should be able to feel the stretch in this way whether you consider yourself flexible or not. Tension in the lower back at this point is normal, but shouldn’t cause you any problems. You might also feel it beneficial to point your toes up, but this is a personal choice,

The Most Effective Hamstring Stretch

Alternatively, one of the best ways to stretch your hamstrings is to stretch it on the floor if you’re comfortable with getting back up again! To perform this version, lie on the floor and use a doorway to support one of your legs and stretch the hamstring. You’ll want to sit close enough to the doorway to be able to feel the stretch in your hamstring, and you can always move a bit closer if the position becomes more comfortable for you. You might experience some numbness in your feet because it’s lifted off the floor but this will come back swiftly as soon as you lower the leg again. Keeping the other leg lying on the floor will help your back to resist flattening its curve, as is very common to experience when lying down.

Don’t Overstretch The Muscle

Another part of stretching where many people go wrong is that they tend to overdo the stretch or take the muscle to the very end of its limit. It’s important to note that you don’t need to do this in order to stretch the muscle well. In fact, you should feel the stretch in the belly of the muscle but if you’re starting to feel it in the attachment areas of the muscle then you’re taking it too far. We often see this in patients at the clinic where they will want to have the greatest stretch possible – whether that’s in their everyday stretching routine, or whether that’s on our spinal decompression table. A deeper stretch does not necessarily mean it’s beneficial for you, just as over-stretching too regularly is not going to be good. We’ve even had an occurrence in the clinic of actually directing someone not to stretch, as we believed they were stretching too much and too often.

If you are struggling with back pain at the moment, be sure to check out our free membership area which can be found at https://www.backinshapeapp.com This area offers insight into which other stretches and exercises would be helpful for you if you are struggling, with the opportunity to develop the program into strength training as part of our premium section. Even if you’re not struggling right now with back pain, if you’re spending a great deal of time at home right now this stretch would be beneficial for you. Your hamstrings will naturally be slightly tighter and this stretch gives your body that extra TLC.

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