Stretch Your Hamstring Muscles to Decrease Knee Pain and Back Pain.
The hamstrings are the muscles on the back of the thigh. The three hamstring muscles are responsible for bending at the knee or flexing the knee. Hamstring tears are often the reason you see sprinters pulling up in a race. The hamstrings attach to the part of the pelvic bone which you sit on. When tight, they can tilt the pelvis backward, flattening the lower back. This can adversely affect the mechanics of the back and pelvis, which can strain your spine and hips. Like the quadriceps, tight hamstrings are often contributing factors of low back pain as well as knee pain.
How to Stretch the Hamstring Muscles
- Lie on your back, in front of a door jamb ( the corner of a wall or bookcase will work as well).
- Place one leg through the doorway.
- The leg you are stretching rests vertically with your heel on the wall or door jamb.
- Keep both buttocks on the floor.
- Your buttocks should be as close to the wall as is comfortable. (As you become more flexible you can get closer to the wall.)
- Place a folded towel, about as thick as your hand, supporting the small of your back.
- Straighten the knee as far as is comfortable.
- You should feel only a comfortable stretch in the back of your thigh or behind the knee.
- Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds
- Repeat same for other side
- Stretch each side 3 times
It is imperative to maintain a comfortable and neutral spine while stretching. For this reason I find stretching the hamstrings with the back supported by the floor to be a superior stretch.
When you are unable to lie on the floor
- Stand facing a chair, bench, or step stool.
- Place one foot on the chair. Extend the knee.
- Always have a chair or wall to your side so you can place one hand on it for balance.
- Place a pillow or book on the chair to lift your foot, if you need more stretch.
- Maintain an upright posture. (see avoiding error below)
Avoid this error.
A common error is to lean forward, bending at the spine. This looks like slouching. This may strain your spine.
If you attempt to lean forward when your hamstring is already on stretch it may also cause your spine to twist. This also places unwanted stress on the spine.
Suggestions made in this publication are no substitute for medical advice. If you have any pain or difficulty performing the described stretches, seek advice from your appropriate health professional.
About the Author
Domenic Lopez B.Sc., Certified Exercise Physiologist and Licensed Massage Therapist, is owner and operator of Healthy Moves, a private practice where massage therapy and movement education help you achieve better living.