Un-kink a Cranky Ham­string

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Training Rehab - By Greg Lehman

Tiredof that con­stant nag­ging in your ham­string? At some point in their ath­letic ca­reers most triath­letes will ex­pe­ri­ence a tight ham­string while run­ning or cy­cling, im­ped­ing move­ment. A tight mus­cle typ­i­cally means it lacks range of mo­tion. Even with­out a loss of mo­bil­ity ath­letes of­ten com­plain of a feel­ing of re­stric­tion. Stretch­ing or mas­sage is of­ten the first line of treat­ment. While help­ful, they tend to be band aids and don’t ad­dress the root of the mus­cle lim­i­ta­tions. Be­low are some of the most com­mon causes of tight ham­strings in mul­ti­sport ath­letes along with some highly ef­fec­tive treat­ments.

1. Neu­ral Tight­ness

The sci­atic nerve runs un­der­neath your ham­strings. It con­nects your brain to your spinal cord to your foot. Neu­ral ten­sion or ir­ri­ta­tion can in­ter­fere with the brain’s abil­ity to ac­cu­rately in­ter­pret what’s be­ing con­veyed by the ham­string – sig­nalling re­stric­tion even if there is none. Nerve f loss­ing helps ease this ten­sion and di­min­ish sen­si­tiv­ity by pulling the nerve away from ad­he­sions or en­trap­ments. This is done by pulling the nerve from one end while keep­ing the other end re­laxed. The pho­tos here demon­strate a sim­ple nerve f loss­ing ex­er­cise. Be­gin by sit­ting in a chair. With your back arched, straighten your leg and pull your foot up­wards. Straight­en­ing the leg essen­tially pulls the nerve down­ward to the foot ( glid­ing the nerve un­der the ham­strings) while arch­ing the back and neck “loosens” the nerve from up top. This is fol­lowed by f lex­ing the neck and back ( pulling the nerve up­wards) while you bend your knee (slack­en­ing the nerve from be­low). Per­form th­ese f loss­ing move­ments 10 to 20 times sev­eral times through­out the day.

2. Weak­ness or Pain

Run­ning and cy­cling are hip dom­i­nant ex­er­cises. Any weak­ness in the back, glutes or ham­strings can cause a sense of tight­ness in the ham­strings with no ac­tual change in mo­bil­ity. Both the per­cep­tion of tight­ness or ac­tual tight­ness is a de­fen­sive re­sponse to pain, or sim­ply the brain’s in­sis­tence that some­thing is not right. Any of those mus­cles can be beat up or tired and just not feel ready to re­spond to the loads you wish to sub­ject them to. You need to pre­pare those mus­cles and get them con­fi­dent again. This form of tight­ness re­sponds well to strength train­ing. Load the ham­strings and hips. The body adapts with time and the sense of tight­ness or in­se­cu­rity slowly di­min­ishes. Strength train­ing the hips through a full range of mo­tion (e. g. dead­lifts, re­sisted hip ex­ten­sion against ca­bles) can even help in­crease range of mo­tion. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, strength train­ing in­creases mo­bil­ity and al­lows ath­letes to own new ranges of mo­tion. It al­lows the brain’s de­fen­sive tight­ness mech­a­nism to re­lax. As an added ben­e­fit, strength train­ing makes you me­chan­i­cally more ef­fi­cient and im­proves per­for­mance times.

3. Low Back Pain

The crank­i­ness or tight­ness felt in the ham­strings can be a prob­lem gen­er­ated from any num­ber of struc­tures in the spine. Pain or dis­com­fort can be re­ferred from the back to the hips and down the legs. Don’t ig­nore this area and seek the ad­vice of a health care pro­fes­sional.

4. Stretch

Stretch­ing has been said to de­crease power, me­chan­i­cal ef­fi­ciency and per­for­mance. This, how­ever, is a gross gen­er­al­iza­tion. The ma­jor­ity of stud­ies show that per­for­mance de­creases in the short term only five per cent (not a big deal for the av­er­age ath­lete on an av­er­age train­ing day) and only when stretches are held for pro­longed pe­ri­ods greater than 60 or 90 sec­onds. Re­mem­ber, th­ese are also just acute changes in per­for­mance. There is no re­search show­ing that stretch­ing changes per­for­mance in the long term. Hold­ing gen­tle stretches 15 to 30 sec­onds as most ath­letes do, will not harm your per­for­mance in the short or long term.

One mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the typ­i­cal ham­string stretch is to per­form the stretch with the knee slightly bent and the back com­pletely straight. El­e­vate your foot on a chair and sim­ply bring your chest closer to your knee by tilt­ing for­ward at the hips. Keep­ing the knee bent and only tilt­ing your pelvis for­ward puts the stretch on the ham­strings rather than the sci­atic nerve. You’ll feel a greater stretch in the mus­cle belly in­stead of be­hind the knee where most peo­ple feel a tra­di­tional ham­string stretch.

Keep f loss­ing, load and stay loose. Greg Lehman is a phys­io­ther­a­pist, run­ning in­jury ther­a­pist and chi­ro­prac­tor at the Ur­ban Ath­lete and at Med­can in Toronto. Fol­low him at the­bodyme­chanic.ca.

Nerve floss­ing Step 1 above Nerve floss­ing Step 2

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.