Every summer, I see sporting teams everywhere running around ovals or in the gym – preparing for the season ahead. Without fail, I see the “classic” team stretch – the old leg on the fence and stretching the hamstring.

All these people in all these teams must really have tight hamstrings……..but do they?

Tight hamstrings have been blamed for plenty, including;

  • Low back pain
  • Knee pain
  • Neck pain
  • Any pain
  • etc.etc

Some of these things can be attributed in part to tight hamstrings, however blaming them for everything is a little………silly!

Is it really tightness?

  1. Maybe…. A lot of the time however, you may feel your hamstrings are tight because of your pelvic posture – namely an anterior pelvic tilt, which puts the hamstrings on stretch and is a very, very common. If you stretch your hamstrings in this instant, all you will do is cause more anterior tilt, and most likely, tighter feeling hamstrings.

Please do not do this!

  1. Sometimes people who feel they have tight hamstrings may actually be weak in their core – this means their hamstrings (and usually also their hip flexors) “tense” and work harder in order to form some sort of stability for movement. The hamstrings feel tight! Stretching them will not help.
  2. Sometimes people are more generally tense – there Sympathetic Nervous System (flight/fright/flight) is always “on”, thus the general tension in most muscles will be greater. Stretching in this situation will not help long-term because it does address the cause.

So what can we do if not stretch? Address the cause – whether it be a spinal positional issue or a nervous system issue – address this first before going to the tried and true – stretching the hamstrings may feel good at the time, but may not help long-term!