A Series on What Is Causing Your Lower Back Pain and How to Treat It!
By Dr. Ryan Lee
TIGHT HAMSTRINGS AFFECT EVERYONE, from elite athletes to dental assistants, mechanics to business professionals.
When we have tight hamstrings, or any chronically tight muscle for that matter, our chances of tearing that muscle significantly increase, even in doing everyday actions.
Tight hamstrings commonly cause pain in the lower back, most often from pulling our hips and pelvis backward which flattens our lower back, creating over stretched muscles and joint fixations.
In this series, we are going to dissect each cause of lower back pain, walk you through ways to test yourself if you are experiencing that pain, as well as ways to treat and fix your lower back pain.
So, what can cause tight hamstrings?
1. Acute Hamstring Injuries
If you injured your hamstring during an sporting event, an accident at the gym or even from work, you probably just strained the hamstring muscle, effectively shortening the muscle.
Simply ignoring the injury will result in the muscle remaining in a shortened state that can lead to chronically tight lower back muscles.
For that reason it is crucial to give your injury enough time to heal before returning to work or play and to properly rehab the muscle.
2. Protective Hamstring Tightness
This is a syndrome most common to those whose pelvic bone has an “anterior tilt.”
(Simply put, those whose hip bones tilt forward towards the front of their body.)
This anterior tilt pulls on the hamstrings, overstretching them and ultimately making them longer than they are meant to be.
This problem is more frequent in women, due to their naturally increased anterior pelvic tilt, as compared to men.
When someone has anterior pelvic tilt causing the hamstring “tightness”, over-stretching the hamstrings will actually just make the problem worse. When the hamstring muscles are stretched too long, they will lose their ability to fight against the forward pull on the pelvis.
The best way to combat this kind of hamstring tightness, is by re-establishing neutral spine position, using some of the exercises listed at the end of the article.
3. Lumbar Spine Joint Dysfunction
When your lumbar (or lower) spine is not in alignment, whether from a past injury or from a repetitive stress motion from your job, it can create a nerve issue that causes the muscle of your lower back and hamstrings to over contract.
This will inevitably lead to hip and spine degeneration.
This also occurs when you have a lumbar spine disc bulge/herniation.
(To learn more about disc bulge/herniations, click here.)
Just as we can get tight hamstrings from overuse, we can also get them from sitting on the couch or at our desk for too long.
Your hamstrings will shorten due to the inactivity and subsequently create lower back pain and tightness.
Seeing how there are multiple causes of tight hamstrings, it is important that you get evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine which kind of injury has caused the tightness of your joints to avoid causing further damage.
What can I do to relieve the tension?
Stretching is a great, natural way to relieve your back pain because it alleviates tight muscles and nourishes the joints of the spine. Regular stretching can also prevent future lower back pain from happening.
By stretching the muscles in your back and legs, you will have increased flexibility, which makes lifting heavy objects easier so you will be less likely to injure your back.
Below, we explain 8 easy stretches you can do at home to relieve your lower back pain!
1. Hamstring Stretch
- To perform this stretch, you will need a chair with a low chair backing
- Place the heel of your foot onto the chair and have the sole of your foot contacting the back of the chair (as pictured)
- Next, have your torso straight and then bend only from your hips
- You will feel the stretch in your hamstrings and calf muscles
- If you begin to feel a tingling sensation, you are stretching too far and need to decrease the length you are bending over your hips
- If you have any balance issues, sit in a chair and prop the leg you are stretching in another chair and bend at the hips (see picture)
- Hold for 20-30 seconds per leg, repeat 2-3 times on each leg.
2. Seated Piriformis Stretch
- To perform this stretch, you will need a chair
- First, sit in the chair and cross one leg over the other (as pictured)
- Now, with your back nice and straight, lean over using only your hips
- You should feel a stretch in the back of your hip and glute area
- This releases the piriformis muscle that can cause pain near your tailbone. When it is hypertonic, it can create sciatic pain
- Hold 20-30 seconds per leg, repeat 2-3 times each leg
3. Knee to Chest Stretch
- This stretch flexes your lumbar spine to stretch out the lower back muscles
- Lay on your back and proceed by grabbing one of your knees with both of your hands and pulling it towards your chest as best as you can
- Hold this stretch 20-30 seconds on each leg, repeat 2-3 times on each leg
- You can make this stretch more difficult by pulling your knee up towards the opposite shoulder and hold. This will flex your lumbar spine as well as stretch out some of your posterior hip.
4. Pelvic Tilt
- This exercise has 2 steps to it
- Start this exercise flat on your back
- Step 1 (First Picture): Anterior Tilt – Arch your low back and lift your abs as high as you can while keeping your buttocks and shoulders touching the floor as best you can. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, the relax. Repeat the two steps for 10 repetitions
- Step 2 (Second Picture): Posterior Tilt – Flatten your lower back to the floor by tightening your abs and bending your pelvis slightly. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat the two steps for 10 repetitions.
5. Cat and Cow Pose
- This stretch is derived from yoga. It is used to create motion in our lower backs when they become stiff and tight.
- For this stretch, you will need to get onto your hands and knees. Then perform the two poses one after the other.
- Cow Pose (Picture 1): While on your hands and knees, drop your belly downward and tilt your pelvis so your back arches and your tail is pointed upwards. Take a breath in and lift your chin enough, but be sure that it doesn’t hurt your neck.
- Cat Pose (Picture 2): Exhale and tip your pelvis forward, this will naturally put your tailbone in between your legs. Your spine will round out naturally and while doing this, draw your belly into your spine. This pose will look just like a cat stretching.
- Interchange each stretch and focus on your breathing. Perform 10-20 repetitions.
6. Lying Knee Twist Stretch
- This pose focuses on stretching your para-spinal muscles in your back. It also strengthens your abdominal muscles
- Start by lying flat on your back
- Then lift your right knee up and over your left hip while trying to keep your back flat on the ground
- With your left hand, hold down your right knee for 20-30 seconds
- then switch to your left leg and repeat 2-3 times on each leg
7. Child’s Pose or Restful Pose
- This is another yoga stretch that opens up the back of your lumbar spine and stretches all of the posterior back muscles
- Start by putting your hands and knees on the ground
- Next, sit your buttocks on the heels of your feet and bend over using your hips while resting your chest on your knees
- From this position, reach out your arms above your head as far as you can and place them on the floor
- If you can, allow your forehead to rest on the floor as well
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
8. Standing Forward Bend
- You do not need perfect flexibility to perform this stretch!
- Start by standing with your feet placed shoulder length apart.
- With your back straight, bend at the waist and try to touch the floor (though this part is not necessary to benefit from this stretch).
- If this portion of the stretch is painful, try slightly bending your knees to relieve any pain or discomfort.
Chiropractic care is a great, holistic way to move the vertebrae in your spine into the correct placement – thus removing subluxations that previously inhibited the full range of motion your spine and legs should have.
In addition, Chiropractors perform soft tissue rehabilitation which retrains the tissue and muscles around the subluxation in order to hold the correct vertebra position.
Chiropractic adjustments treat the causes rather than just the symptoms of your pain.
If you’re ready to get rid of your back pain and see what a difference chiropractic care can make for you, give us a call at (423)-498-3400 today!
Or click below to schedule your first appointment!
Reach Health and Wellness Chiropractic is located in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area specifically in Collegedale, TN, a short distance from Ooltewah, Cleveland, East Brainerd, East Ridge, Ringgold, Apison, and Harrison.
Dr. Ryan Lee is the practicing chiropractic physician at Reach Health and Wellness Chiropractic. For his full bio, click here. *This content is strictly the opinion of Dr. Ryan Lee and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Dr. Lee does not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.