Hamstring stretches are overrated

Stretching your hamstrings is overrated.

Why this matters:

A common activity that providers recommend is stretching out the hamstrings when dealing with sciatica pain. The belief was that tight hamstrings pull the pelvis “out of alignment” and that was the cause of many issues like arthritis and herniated discs. However, research shows that hamstring flexibility (or lack thereof) has little to do with pain. 

Another question we have to ask is if the hamstring tightness is a cause of pain, or a result of it. If the hamstring is the cause of pain, then yes, stretching it could be helpful. However, if the tension is a result of the pain, stretching it can only make it worse.

Action steps:

Be wary of long intense hamstring stretches, and even sciatic nerve stretches. If you hold a stretch, you pretty much deprive that nerve and muscle of oxygen. This can make it more irritated.

Massaging the hamstrings is a useful way to improve length and flexibility in the muscle without putting too much stress on the nerves. In the cases that I recommend hamstring work, this is how most of my clients manage their hamstring tightness.

After relief is experienced with the above technique, take a deep dive and figure out why your hamstrings tighten up in the first place. No muscle will spontaneously tighten without reason.


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