Why are my hamstrings so tight?

Why Are My Hamstrings So Tight? Common Reasons for Tight Hamstrings Explained

Written by Dr. Davis Bates, Clinic Director – Advantage Health Group

Many people, 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/Fibrosis

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

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/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/Fibrosis

Adhesions (built-up connective tissue) in the hamstring muscles themselves are a result of overuse or underuse of the tissue and causes 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.

Dr. Davis Bates, Clinic Director
Advantage Health Group
Edina, Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Davis is Advantage Health Group’s Clinic Director as well as Low Back, Hip, and Cervical Spine Specialist through Integrative Diagnosis. Dr. Davis also is a Doctor of Chiropractic through Northwestern Health Sciences University.

Speaking of Integrative Diagnosis, while in graduate school Dr. Davis began his training through Integrative Diagnosis, working with the best chronic pain doctors in the world. It was through this training that Advantage Health Group was formed. ⠀

Not only is Davis a visionary for Advantage Health Group he is also married to Nichole who is a health coach and public speaker. They have two Pomeranians pups; Kilo and Lola. Together they love to travel, hike, and watch college football. ⠀

He is passionate about helping those suffering from chronic pain.