How to Stretch Your Hamstrings Safely and Properly to Avoid Back Problems

Updated August 17, 2016

tight hamstrings and lower back pain

The Pelvic Effect

The majority of people who experience lower back pain, also have tight or shortened hamstrings.

When your hamstrings do not provide the sufficient length and flexibility to perform everyday tasks, the work of the upper body must compensate for it.  Your hamstrings are attached from your femur to your pelvis.  The limited length of this muscle restricts the pelvis from moving together with the back as the upper body moves.

It is important that the pelvis tilt independent of the legs and with the spine.  This allows the spine to maintain its natural and safer lumbar curve.  This curve is what is needed to prevent disc injury.

A less mobile pelvis results in a hyper-mobile lower back.  This leads to an uneven distribution of weight on the lumbar discs and vertebrae.

Over use of the smaller muscles of the lower back leads to fatigue and possible spasm.  Spasms trigger as a result of the muscle to prevent  the joint from being at risk of a possibility of increased injury.

If this action is not corrected, disc pressure may become unbalanced leading to excessive  disc bulge, herniation, rupture and pain will eventually follow.

Tight hamstrings therefore affect the pelvis which then affect the lower back.  It would then seem imperative that in order to improve pelvic mobility, the hamstrings and also the quadriceps should be conditioned to allow the pelvis to move more dynamically with the spine.

Dangerous Hamstring Stretches

Current, popular, options and recommendations to stretch the hamstrings include leaning forward to touch your toes.  This practice commonly encouraged either in a standing or sitting position.

A hamstring stretch should be avoided at all costs

Dangerous Stretches

Many fitness instructors, doctors, coaches and various other sources advise of this stretch but don’t not realize that there is a much safer option available.

These type of stretches are meant to recondition the muscle but don’t address joint issues.  As all skeletal muscles cross a joint,  stretching (to most degrees) will have a direct impact on them.  Although the hamstring muscles do not cross the lumbar joints, the act of stretching them impacts them directly as they are used as a lever to facilitate the stretch.  

Dangerous Hamstring Stretches

Because the lumbar discs are at the center (axis) of this lever, they arethe most vulnerable especially the L5-S1 disc.  The amount of pressure (unbalanced of course) placed on this disc while trying to move very resistant, tight hip and hamstring

muscles, are extremely high.  This discs is normally the first disc to wear from abuse, herniate and degenerate.  When this disc is become less supportive, the L4-L5 is the next disc to be affected negatively.

Safer Hamstring Stretches

An important and much safer stretch to perform, is the SEATED HAMSTRING STRETCH.  This stretch prevents any injury to the lumbar spine as only the hamstrings move during this exercise.  This exercise isolates the hamstring groups, while protecting the lumbar spine from injury that would otherwise occur in more common and less safe stretches.  Another benefit to this stretch is that it encourages the pelvis to remain aligned and in support of the spine before the stretch is performed.  This is opposite to the standard stretches for hamstrings where pelvic tilt is not preserved.

Although, your hamstring muscles can have a significant impact on your lower back, there are many other muscle groups that play a part.  Addressing tight hamstring muscles are key to relieve pain and protection from further injury.

For fully detailed information and instructions on HOW to perform this stretch:  


Safe Hamstring Stretches

leg extension should be the only movement occurring


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