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Hamstrings and lower back pain – are they related?

Updated: Jan 31

When people think about their legs, what usually comes to mind first is their quads or calves. Hamstrings can be overlooked and are often the weakest or tightest muscles in our legs.

 

What do hamstrings do?

Hamstrings are involved in major movements of daily life, such as standing and walking (1). The hamstrings consist of 3 muscles; Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, Biceps femoris.


These muscles cross over both our hip and knee joints, producing movements at them. They stabilize the knee and hip, and flex the knee and extend your thigh (2). You can read more about these muscles here (3).




How can my hamstrings affect my lower back?

 

Studies have shown increased stiffness in our hamstrings can contribute to lower back pain (4,5). When our hamstrings are tight, they pull on the pelvis creating tension on the muscles in the lower back.

 

What’s the best way to reduce the tension?

 

Simply, keep moving. Walk when & where you can, take a walk around the block at lunchtime or do a walking meeting. Use your stand up/sit down desk at work. Observe how you stand - are you favouring one leg over another. Choose the right shoes for your feet. Do some simple stretches and strengthening exercises. Consult a health professional to build a program for tailored precisely for you.


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References:

  1. The Hamstrings: Anatomic and Physiologic Variations and Their Potential Relationships With Injury Risk – NIH – National Library of Medicine - Accessed online 1 Jan 24 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8294189/

  2. Get Body Smart – Hamstrings - Accessed online 1 Jan 24 - https://www.getbodysmart.com/posterior-thigh-muscles/

  3. Association Between Hamstring Shortness and Asymmetry, Pain Intensity, Disability Index, and Compensatory Lumbar Movement in 60 Patients with Nonspecific Chronic Low Back Pain –  NIH – National Library of Medicine - Accessed online 1 Jan 24 -  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10044007/#:~:text=However%2C%20the%20hamstring%20muscle%20length,the%20normal%20group%20%5B20%5D

  4. Comparison of hamstrings flexibility in subjects with chronic low back pain versus normal individuals – Research Gate – Accessed online 1 Jan 24

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