The backbone’s connected to the hamstrings…

In the 26 years I have owned a Pilates studio, one of the most common injuries my clients present with is low back pain. By the time I see them, they have tried so many different treatments some work for a while but many don’t.

The one thing 99.8 percent of these clients have in common…tight a$$ hamstrings! Believe it or not, tight hamstrings are the root of most low back pain. When the Hamstrings get tight, they pull your pelvis out of alignment. This is never a good thing. If you can gain just 20-30 degrees more flexibility in your hamstrings, your low back pain will likely get better if not completely disappear. Of course, stretching your hamstrings alone does not replace a good, strong core but that’s a blog post for another day.

Your goal if you can’t already, is to be able to touch your toes. (without bending your knees cheater!)

Here are 3 great Hamstring stretches. In order to get results, it is best to hold these stretches for at least 2 minutes. Have you ever seen how flexible yoga people are? That’s because they hold their stretches for long periods of time. Remember…never bounce in your stretches.

This first one you can do anywhere and you don’t need anything too high. Bend forward at the waist with a straight back trying not to round your mid back and shoulders. Hold for two minutes. After two minutes press your heel into the chair or bench and push down with your leg still straight for 10 seconds. After you release, try and go just a bit more forward in your stretch. You should have gained a wee bit more flex than you had before. Now just rinse and repeat!

The second one is my fav because you get to relax everything else and just focus on your tight Hamstrings. Lie in a doorway with one knee bent and the other leg straight up the door jam (pictured). Slowly try to straighten your bent knee leg until it is resting straight on the floor. If this is too easy, just move farther into the doorway. You should feel a good stretch, not be writhing in pain. This one you can hold for 2-5 minutes. Then again, push the straight leg heel against the door jam like you are trying to push the door down. Hold this for 10 seconds. Release and immediately move farther into the door jam. Did you go any further?

Last but certainly not less painful, the foam roller Hamstring stretch. If you don’t have one you can pick them up at Target or most sporting goods stores. Just sit with the foam roller under both thighs (as pictured) and roll from the top of your thigh to the back of your knee supporting your weight with your hands. Make the movements smaller and slower if you feel too much pain. Otherwise…just suck it up. You’ll thank me later.