Do you have ongoing hamstring issues that don’t seem to get better? Maybe it goes away for a bit and then all of a sudden the 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 the hamstring muscle itself, but other sources instead. Hence, this is why no matter how many times you roll out your hammy’s 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 complaining of ongoing hamstring pain or tightness that isn’t getting better. The most common source of this is actually a nerve that runs down the back of your leg and supplies the hamstring muscle.
Does an achey lower back or
tight hips sound familiar?
This 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 nerve, which then gives you pain in the hamstring area where the nerve runs.
Since this nerve supplies the hammy, pressure on it can also cause the hamstring muscle to tighten. Therefore, you can do as much work on the hamstring 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 nerve is the source of all the issues!
This neural tightness can also put you at an increased risk of pulling or tearing your hamstring 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 hammy on multiple occasions in the past.
So how do I fix it?
By taking the pressure off the nerve and keeping the pressure off the nerve! First of all it’s important to loosen up those tight hip muscles and low back that are causing the issues. However, this 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 work needs to be followed 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.
Look out for our follow up on this blog with some hip and back exercises to get you started!