Tight Hamstrings: Is Stretching Them the Answer?
Many people complain of tight hamstring (back of the thigh) muscles. They have tried static stretching and foam rolling but that hasn’t solved the problem. That’s because the root of the problem is somewhere else. Muscles and bones in the body are interconnected; any weakness or tightness in one area affects the other parts. If one muscle is weak, other muscles will try to take over the work. If one area is tight, another will have to move more to compensate for the lack of movement. Just because you have tightness or even pain in a specific area, it doesn’t mean that muscle or joint is necessarily the problem.
For example, sitting and activities like cycling, walking, elliptical training, and running tighten the hip flexor muscles which attach to the front of the pelvis. When the hip flexor muscles become tight and short, they pull the pelvis forward which then pulls on the hamstrings. This overstretches the hamstrings making them feel tight. When a muscle group is shortened, the opposing muscle group is turned off to some degree. Tight hip flexors can keep the powerful gluteus maximus muscle in the butt from working properly. This overloads other muscles in the hips and back that try to take over the extra work. Over time, this can lead to fatigue and overuse of these muscles. An appropriate corrective exercise program uses myofascial release and stretching to release tight muscles, strengthens weak muscles to restore alignment and muscle balance, and integrates functional exercise to restore movement patterns.