‘Hammies’ are the key to proper spinal function
By Dr. Brian Hester, Back to Health of Anthem
Have you ever started to drive your car and realized you left the parking brake on? Things just felt off. It just isn’t running the way it should.
But once you figure it out and release the parking brake, everything feels much smoother. There’s way less resistance. Well, welcome to tight hamstrings. Your hamstrings are a part of a huge muscle group that controls proper spinal function, your posture and a ton of your everyday activities, including walking, bending over and squatting.
I’d bet if people actually knew how critical the hamstrings were to pain-free movement, they would treat those hammies a little nicer. Maybe even stretching them on a regular basis – gasp!
How tight are your hamstrings? Lie flat on the floor and lift one leg at a time. Can you get to 90 degrees? I’m guessing that’s a “no” from most of you.
But can your hamstrings really cause a bad back? Absolutely. I know it might sound crazy but, trust me, after 18 years of taking care of patients, I’ve seen a lot of bad backs. They all had one thing in common—tight hamstrings.
As a society, we sit way too much. When we sit, the knees are bent, which makes the hamstrings chill out, semi-contracted all day long, meaning they’re not being stretched at all. When we stand, the knees and hips extend, and the hamstrings have to lengthen. Here’s a little anatomy for you: Your hamstrings attach to the back of your pelvis. When your hamstrings are tight from all that sitting, they pull your pelvis backward and flatten your lumbar curve. This natural arch is oh-so-critical to support your lower back. Without it, all of your body weight compresses into your spine, causing pressure in the discs and joints of the lower back. Eventually, this leads to bigger problems, like bulging and herniated discs, joint misalignment, compressed or pinched nerves and muscle spasms—all of which equal pain.
So, what do you do about it?
The first step I recommend is a functional fitness screening. This test can help show us if tight hamstrings or any other muscle groups are causing a problem for you. We can then move into postural and mobility exercises to address the tight muscles that will make a gigantic difference with chronic lower back problems.
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