Hamstrings, Oh Hamstrings
You know they're tight, but do you know why?
The hamstring is responsible for bending the knee. Stand up. Without using your hands, bring the heel of your foot to your butt. Your hamstring just did that movement for you. Did you feel a cramping sensation on the backside of your leg? Good, keep reading....
A tight muscle is a shortened muscle. How do you make a muscle less tight? You work on lengthening it. Since our hamstring is never fully lengthened for about 98% of our day, it's going to be tight. So yes, your tightness is normal- but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take care of it. A tight muscle is a injury-prone muscle.
The hamstring is commonly injured in the eccentric phase of movement- aka while the muscle is being lengthened (which we know we don't do a lot of). A popular injury for the hamstring is a muscular strain. Imagine you are running forward- maybe you're running to a tennis net to quickly get a drop-shot before that second bounce. Before the forward leg strikes the ground, that leg and hamstring are extended. This movement is a prime example of how a hamstring can suffer a strain.
So... we know that the hamstring is almost always "tight" and that it usually becomes injured when stretched. It all makes sense! Understanding how the body works and how it becomes injured is why Athletic Trainers are so helpful for injury prevention and care.
Treatment and Strengthening Solutions
We want to share with you some of our favorite treatment methods and strength exercises that will help you take better care of your hamstrings.
First, we need to relieve that tightness. Manual therapy (a targeted form of massage therapy) is a great solution for muscular tightness.
If you carry swelling and inflammation in your hamstring- most likely occurs after an injury- kinesiotape is also a great solution.
This might sound counterintuitive, but we want to train a muscle group in the same way that it becomes injured. This way the muscle will be less likely to injure. That said, we want to make sure we strengthen the hamstring in the lengthened position.