Hamstring Tightness

Everyone at some point has felt a strong desire to stretch their hamstrings, or has said the words “my hamstrings feel tight,” or has been told their back hurts because they have “tight” hamstrings.

After many years of practicing functional medicine, I have found very few people reporting benefitting from stretching their hamstrings. People generally say it felt great while I was doing it, but the tightness always seems to come back! I want to introduce you to the concept of hamstring tightness due to the pelvic position.

There are many types of pelvic positions. for the sake of this post we’ll focus on Anterior pelvic tilt (APT) (anterior=forward) and posterior pelvic tilt (PPT). (posterior=backwards).  

Conversely, those with too much of a posterior pelvic tilt develop a flat back (and butt). This causes the quads to become too long and tight and the hamstrings to become too short.

Every person has some degree of curvature in their spines. People with too much of an anterior pelvic tilt develops an over exaggerated lumbar curve, called a lordosis. This also causes the hamstrings to elongate and tighten up and the quadriceps to shorten. notice the difference between the hamstring length on the neutral pelvis on the left picture, and the anteriorly tilted pelvis on the right picture. The hamstring is effectively lengthened due to being pulled on by a faulty pelvic position, not because it is short. and it especially does not need to be stretched. This causes the person to feel as though their hamstring is tight, when in reality it is being pulled tight like a rubber band, due to the pelvis and no amount of stretching will help.

All too often clients will come into the office because they have either pulled their hamstring or a prior hamstring injury with a build up of scar tissue is affecting their athletic  performance. And despite stretching and in some cases rehab therapy, like Physical Therapy, they are still plagued with hamstring issues.

My challenge to you. Watch this video. Note how initially her back is arched (anterior pelvic tilt) and her leg does not go very high, additionally she feels extreme hamstring tightness. Conversely look what happens when she flattens her back (posterior pelvic tilt). Her hamstring tightness magically disappears. When this works it is very likely the hamstrings are not the problem.

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