Stretching Not Helping Your "Tight Hamstrings?"
"Tight hamstrings” are a common issue encountered by chiropractors on a daily basis. This usually manifests as the patient being unable to bend over and touch their toes or simply reporting pain in the back of the thighs. Stretching can be beneficial for those patients that actually have a muscular tension problem as their primary dysfunction. But if the tightness is just a symptom/consequence of a separate dysfunction…. Then stretching your hamstrings might actually be making the problem worse!
So what type of underlying dysfunction might manifest with hamstring tension as the symptom???
The answer is NEURAL TENSION. And it is likely to be neural tension involving the infamous sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is made up of several spinal nerves (L4-S3) that start in the low back/sacrum. These spinal nerves then come together in the pelvic region to form the MASSIVE sciatic nerve (it’s as thick as one of your fingers, believe it or not)! The sciatic nerve then travels down the back of the thigh before it splits into smaller nerves just above the knee. It is responsible for controlling all of the hamstring muscles.
When the brain detects a “threat” (tension and/or pain) coming from the sciatic nerve it will initiate a protective response. This protective response is to tighten the muscles (hamstrings) surrounding the sciatic nerve in an attempt to create slack in the nerve as it travels down the leg. The brain will always prioritize the integrity of the nervous system over the muscular system.
So how do we teach the brain that there is no threat to the integrity of the sciatic nerve…? By moving the nerve with very specific and targeted maneuvers, of course. These maneuvers can help free up tacked down portions of the nerve, pump nutrients into damaged sections of the nerve, and desensitize the nerve to general tension. When the brain realizes the “threat” is not as threatening as it thought, watch the hamstring tension melt away!
To wrap this up, know that if you feel like you have “tight hamstrings” and have failed to progress with stretching alone…. There is still hope! Stop by SCWC so we can assess your particular situation and get you the best, most targeted treatment possible!