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Painfully Tight Hamstring

Starting mid-December my right hamstring became painfully tight. Specifically, it hurts at the very top and very bottom of the muscle. I stretch all day and the next morning it’s tight and painful again. Strangely, when I do direct hamstring work, it seems to feel better for a day or so. Ice doesn’t seem to help at all.

I’m starting to suspect I strained it and maybe I’m reaggravating it by aggressively stretching it daily (?). Should I avoid leg exercises altogether for a while? I was thinking of switching to a trap bar deadlift (in lieu of conventional deadlift and squat) so I’m still getting some lower body work.

Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

Have you looked into a dry needling session or two?

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Yeah, if stretching isn’t helping, try something else.

Pain at both ends of the muscle seems like it’s tight and short. If stretching and working it isn’t helping the issue may be where the muscle attaches to the tendon vs in the muscle belly itself.

So if you’re into professional help, dry needling or Rolfing of some kind of ART to release knots/tightness could be good.

If you’re more of a do it yourself guy, try sitting on a lacrosse ball or a racquetball or something. Try to find the area where your hamstring and glute come together. Or at the “top” of your femur. Then kind of shuttle around, while sitting on the ball, trying to find tight spots, or lumps, or “hot spots” then mash them up. Get the tightness to release so it stops pulling on your hammie, homie.

Roll around going down the length of your hamstring. If you find lumps in the middle of your hamstring, put the ball on the lump and bend/straighten your leg, “flossing” your hamstring as it slides across the ball during the movement.

Sometimes tight glutes or peiriformis even hip muscles can pull on you in strange ways so maybe roll those out too.


This sounds more like a sciatic nerve irritation than a hamstring problem.

Stop stretching for 2 days, and instead do 20 backbends spinal extensions every 1-2 hours. Keep trainingbas you usually would

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OP, please don’t do this unless you’re properly assessed by a practitioner, and they recommend it. The spine is not an area to just experiment with, and 100+ back bends everyday just for shits is insane. It could really irritate facet joints, alter some movement patterns, irritate discs, etc.

I am a practitioner and I do recommend it. It is an unloaded movement that is 100% safe for the spine. Look up the McKenzie school of spinal management and the phenomenon of directional preference

Basically, sciatic nerve irritation occurs when disc material from the spine - usually the L5-S1 disk - protrudes backwards and to the side, chemically irritating the nerve root. Performing the unloaded back bend, pictured below, helps to reduce this extrusion by forcing the disc material anteriorly, away from the nerve root.

to perform, push your spine into extension using your arms only. Spinal extensor muscles should be totally relaxed

You can see here how, with spinal flexion, the disc material protrudes backwards, potentially irritating the nerve root and producing a sensation of pain and tightness down the affected leg. With extension, the disc material is pushed forwards, away from the sensitised nerve root

Now, if OP tries the movement and it makes his pain worse, he should obviously stop it. However, there is a relatively high probability success and a risk of true injury of next to zero

I’m very familiar with McKenzie method and its claims. Practiced it for months while working with a chiro. It royally f’ed up my lower back and SI area and took several months to “undo.” I agree that doing a back bend is 100% safe, but is doing 200 in a day safe?

What from his post made you think L5-S1? I’m guessing you’re a chiro?

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The L5-S1 radicular pattern goes down the leg directly underneath the hamstring. It’s also the nerve root most commonly affected by radiculopathy (95+% of cases). The L4-L5 nerve root refers pain to the front of the thigh, under the quad. The other lumbar and sacral nerve roots are more or less never affected

Yes, I would say so. Standard prescription for directional preferences exercises is 10-20 reps every 1-3 hours. Also I didn’t say do it forever, only for the next 2 days and see how it responds

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