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Why are my hamstrings so tight?

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

Do you ever find yourself constantly having the feeling of tightness along the back of your thighs? You’ve tried stretching over and over again but can’t seem to loosen up? Most people will think, “My hamstrings are tight, I should stretch them”. But, there is another structure that runs along the back of your leg that could actually be the culprit.

A quick anatomy lesson to begin...

Originating in the lumbar spine is a plexus of nerves that come together and form the sciatic nerve. This big, thick nerve travels through your buttocks, down between your hamstrings, through your calf, and all the way into the foot. This is the main nerve responsible for communicating with all the muscles of the lower extremity. Just like muscles, nerves need to be able to move and adjust to tension and compression. When this is compromised, we can end up with something called adverse neural tension. Due to the sciatic nerve’s approximation with the hamstring musculature, if the nerve is tight then it can bring about the feeling of tight hamstrings.

Compared to muscles, nerves are not elastic. Think of the difference between a rubber band (muscle) and a straw (nerve). When a muscle is tight, due to it’s elasticity, we can stretch it and it will feel better. Since the properties of nerves are different, when we try to stretch them, we either don’t feel any better or we feel worse.

While there are different techniques out there, one we like is a supine nerve glide. This movement can be performed by lying on your back and holding the affected leg in your hands behind the thigh. (You can also use a strong band or towel if easier.) Next, you are going to straighten your leg up to point on tension and then either pump your foot up and down or bend your knee back and forth. See picture below for an example.

If you find that you’re still having trouble or that is not getting to root of the problem, please contact the experts at Prevail and we will help you out.

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