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Hobbling around with stiff hamstrings isn’t fun, and people tend to assume that stretching is the answer. Here’s why stretching may not address the root of the problem, why the tightness always comes back, and whether a chiropractor like Dr. McSweeney here in Reno can help.

Address Hamstring Tightness

First, let’s correct a common misconception. Unless your hamstring has been torn or this is an ongoing issue, it’s likely that your hamstrings aren’t tight, but short. True hamstring tightness usually comes from one of two causes.

  • Compensation – When stabilizing muscles aren’t working properly, muscles intended primarily for movement can be overused as the body works to compensate. Over time, this overwork can lead to tightness.

    Test it: Lay flat on your stomach and relax. Slowly lift one leg upward about ten inches, keeping it straight at the knee. Return to the ground and repeat with the opposite leg. If you’re struggling to keep the knee straight as you lift either leg, or you find that your low back arches, consider it a sign that your hamstrings are working overtime.

When this kind of compensation is the cause of your hamstring tightness, stretching only addresses the symptoms and not the cause.

  • Nerve irritation – This condition can mimic muscle tightness, particularly when it’s sciatic pain. And while stretching may feel good in the short term, it can aggravate an already irritated nerve.
    Test it: Try stretching your hamstring from a seated position, one leg out. Then slowly tuck your chin into your chest. If the stretch increases with the tucking of your chin, nerve irritation is the likely culprit. The tension caused by tucking your chin makes symptoms of muscle irritation more noticeable.

Can a Chiropractor Help?

While chiropractors like Dr. McSweeney are associated with relieving pain in the back, neck and hips, they can also help with muscle tightness that’s causing some of those issues. If you’re struggling with ongoing hamstring tightness, Dr. McSweeney can help. Come in for a consultation and assessment, and she can make recommendations for treatment that will address the real problem, and not just the symptoms.