604.739.2118 spinehealth@shaw.ca

stretch yoga back painIn my practice, I have noticed that many of my chronic back pain patients have tight hamstrings. The hamstring is a muscle that runs from your lower buttock to the back of the knee on each leg.

Simply stretching the hamstring may help or even cure your lower back pain. Since this muscle attaches to the back of the pelvis, the tight muscles can pull the pelvis out of alignment and cause the lumbar spine (the lower part of your spine) to loss it normal curvature or lordosis. This can cause increase pressure on your discs and spinal joints and ultimately inflammation and pain. Over time, this can lead to irreversible degenerative changes to the spine. Even if you have treatment on a regular basis, if this problem is not corrected, you will still suffer intermittent lower back pain.

To determine if you have tight hamstrings, you can do an easy self check. While lying down on your back, have someone lift one leg (do not raise the other leg) to a point of tension. Your leg should be close to 90 degrees (perpendicular to the floor). Do the same to the opposite leg. If you cannot reach close to 90 degrees, then it is time to stretch.

Stretching the hamstring is very simple and easy. The following guidelines also apply to all stretches:

1. Do not hold your breath. Take slow deep and long breath to help relax your body.

2. Do not force your stretch. Stretch to the point where you feel a good tension and not pain.

3. Hold your stretches. Never bounce when you stretch, but try to hold the position for 5 to 40 seconds.

4. Try to do it every day. In order to obtain more flexibility, you must try to stretch consistently.

5. Warm-ups before stretching. It is good to do a light warm-up to get the circulation going and the body warmer. You can get a more effective stretch by adding a pre-stretch routine.

There are a few ways you can stretch your hamstring:

1. While sitting on the floor with both legs straight out, extend your arms and reach forward by bending at the waist as far as possible, while keeping your knees straight.

2. Same as exercise #1 but with one leg straight out and the other leg bent at the knee with the sole of that foot against your opposite inner thigh.

3. Stand one foot from a wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder-height, shoulder-width apart. Take a step back with one leg while pushing into the wall. Keep your back straight and press your heels into the floor.

4. Lie on your back and loop a towel (or a belt) across the sole of one foot. While holding the ends of the towel in each hand, pull one leg upwards until you feel a good stretch. (This stretch is good for people with chronic lower back pain)

Many people with chronic lower back pain experience great improvement with daily hamstring stretches. Even if you do not have lower back pain, maintaining your hamstring flexibility can help keep your lower back and pelvis healthy many years.