Hamstrings and Lower Back Pain

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

Hamstrings, Could Muscle Injury be the Cause of Lower back pain? This is one of my most viewed articles on Kathie’s Fitness Blog so I thought I’d re-vamp it a little bit and re-publish it. Enjoy!

You often hear about athletes who are unable to play their sport due to a pulled hamstring. In fact, a pulled hamstring is one of the most common muscle pulls or muscle injury. Your hamstrings are a group of three muscles that help extend your legs at the hip and flex them at the knee. A pulled hamstring is a strain or tear in the muscles or tendons.

To understand what causes a hamstring injury you have to know how muscles work. All muscles work in pairs to perform a task. One set of muscles contracts to exert force while the other set of muscles relaxes. The hamstring muscles located at the back of the thigh, work with the quadriceps muscle group in the front of the thigh. When you want to bend your leg, the hamstring muscles contract and the quadriceps muscles relax. Conversely, when you want to straighten your leg, the quadriceps muscles contract and the hamstring muscles relax. If one muscle group is considerably stronger than its opposing muscle group, the imbalance can lead to strain. This frequently happens with the hamstring muscles. The quadriceps muscles are usually much more powerful, so the hamstring can become fatigued faster. A fatigued muscle cannot relax as easily when its opposing muscle contracts, leading to strains. Muscle strains are overuse injuries that result when the muscle is stretched without being properly warmed up.

An injury to the hamstring is usually readily apparent.

• Mild strains may involve simple, uncomfortable tightening of the muscle.

• More severe injuries may result in a sharp pain in the back of the thigh, usually in full stride.

• A rupture or tear may leave you unable to stand or walk, muscles may be tender to the touch and painful to stretch your leg. Within a few days after a tear the area may appear very bruised. If the muscle is completely torn, surgery may be necessary to repair and reattach it. Ouch!!

No treatment is complete without proper rehabilitation to strengthen and stretch the muscle. The best way to prevent a hamstring injury is to warm up before activity and stretch after activity. Weak or tight hamstrings can contribute to low back pain, so doing exercises to strengthen and stretch the hamstrings may also reduce your risk of low back pain.

Be sure to perform all strength training exercises in opposing muscle form. For example if you work the quadriceps be sure to also work the hamstrings. The best exercise to isolate these two muscle groups would be the Leg Press and the Leg Curl working the quadriceps and hamstrings respectively. If you feel your hamstring is the muscle with the imbalance be sure to work it a little harder by adding an extra set or more weight for your sets. A good stretch is to sit down and straighten your left leg. The sole of your right foot should rest next to the inside of your straightened leg. Lean slightly forward and touch your foot with your fingers. Keep your left foot upright with the ankle and toes relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the right leg. Remember stretching is best done AFTER activity.

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