Why Are My Hamstrings So Tight?

Photo by Maridav/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Maridav/iStock / Getty Images

Many trainers and athletes complain about “tight hamstrings.”  They spend a lot of time stretching their hamstrings even though this is rarely ever the answer.  Hamstring tightness can be caused by many things that stretching won't fix.  Excessive stretching can sometimes even worsen the problem. Getting the correct diagnosis and reason for your "tightness" is vital.

Common Reasons for Tight Hamstrings

  • Lumbar (Low Back) Disc Injury

  • Sciatic Nerve Entrapment

  • Hip/Knee Joint Degeneration

  • Hamstring Adhesions


low back disk injury causing tight hamstrings

Lumbar (Low Back) Disc Injury

 

Disc injuries in the lower spine will cause a protective tension in the hamstrings.  Our bodies do this because they don't want us to put extra load onto injured discs.  Forward flexing of the spine (i.e. hamstring stretches) can be dangerous for a disc injury and furthermore cause hamstrings to engage in protective tension in order to keep us upright.


Sciatic Nerve Entrapment Causing Tight Hamstrings

Sciatic Nerve Entrapment

Nerve entrapments do not always result in nerve symptoms (I.e. burning, tingling, numbness).  When the entrapment is mild or not inflamed it will actually present itself as tightness in the area.  In the case of a sciatic nerve entrapment, the location is in the posterior thigh; the same location as the hamstrings.  Nerves become adhered to the surrounding muscles through a buildup of connective tissue called adhesion or scar tissue.  This adhesion acts like glue sticking the nerve and muscle together, preventing proper sliding and movement of the tissues.  As a result, "tightness" can occur, and in this case, it would be in the posterior hip and posterior thigh.


Hip Joint Degeneration Causing Tight Hamstrings

Hip/Knee Joint Degeneration

When we add too much load to a joint that is degenerated, such as the hip or knee, the hamstring will tighten or even strain.  This is one of the most common reasons we see repetitive hamstring strains in our office. Femoral Acetabular Impingement is becoming very common in athletes that specialize at a young age in sports with lots of running or lateral movements.  The hamstring works hard to protect the injured area causing increased tightness and increased risk for strain or tear of the hamstring.  Knee cartilage injuries (articular or meniscus) can also cause hamstring tension, typically in the lower hamstring area. 


Hamstring Adhesions

Hamstring Adhesions

Adhesions (built-up connective tissue) in the hamstring muscles themselves are a result of overuse of the tissue and can cause decreased flexibility and weakness.  Moreover, adhesion can cause significant issues when attempting to reach full strides in sprinting and explosive jumping movements.


If stretching your hamstring isn’t working or you are experiencing repetitive hamstring strains, it is likely there is more going on than just a tight muscle.  At Bloomington Sports & Wellness, we determine the underlying cause of your issue and come up with the best game plan moving forward to get you fixed! Call us at 812-323-7432 or contact us today to set up a consultation for your tight hamstrings.