Do you have ongoing hamstring issues that won’t go away? Maybe it gets better for a bit and then all of a sudden the hamstring pain is back with a vengeance?
You may have even tried a specific hamstring-specific stretching and strengthening programs but after all of your hard work, the symptoms don’t seem to be changing.
If this is you, then your pain may have nothing to do with hamstring injuries, but other sources instead. This is why no matter how many times you roll out your hamstring or how many hamstring curls you can fit into the week the pain doesn’t change. The source itself isn’t being addressed!
In the clinic we commonly have clients coming in and reporting what feels like hamstring pain or tightness that isn’t getting better. The most common source of this is actually the sciatic nerve that runs down the back of your leg and supplies the hamstring muscle.
Does an achey lower back or tight hips sound familiar?
The sciatic nerve starts in your low back and passes through your glute muscles, in particular a muscle called piriformis. If these muscles get tight or overloaded they can compress and irritate the sciatic nerve, which can cause hamstring pain due to where the sciatic nerve continues to run once it pasts through the hips.
Another sign that the sciatic nerve may be responsible for your hamstring pain that won’t go away or your history of repeated hamstring injuries is that you develop problems on both sides. For example, if you have a problem with your hamstring on your left leg, it shouldn’t then jump across to the right leg also. Hamstring pain on the left leg, should stay a one sided problem.
Since the sciatic nerve supplies the hamstring muscles, pressure on it can also cause the hamstrings to tighten. Therefore, you can do as many hamstring stretches as you want but if the areas higher up are never addressed it’s going to keep coming back!
One of my pet hates is clients coming in complaining of these issues despite seeing a physiotherapist forever, but yet the physio has never even checked if the sciatic nerve is the source of all the issues!
This neural tightness can also put you at an increased risk of an actual hamstring injury in the future so it’s important to get on top of it early. It may also be the reason why you’ve strained your hamstring on multiple occasions in the past.
So how do I fix it?
By taking the pressure off the sciatic nerve! First of all it’s important to loosen up those tight hip muscles and low back that are causing the issues. However, this alone isn’t a long term fix. These muscles are tightening up because they can’t keep up with the load they’re being put through.
Your flexibility needs to be worked on, and is best completed by following by a specific rehab program focusing on glute and deep core muscle strength to take pressure off your low back. By strengthening up these muscles you are increasing the amount of load they are able to cope with. The stronger they are the less they are going to tighten and irritate the sciatic nerve.
Look out for our follow up on this blog with some hip and back exercises to get you started!