Ok, we finally made it to the 4th and final gospel of low back pain; Hamstrings. Although back pain may be caused by a multitude of things, these 4 muscle groups are by far the biggest culprits of why your low back is hurting. Something you might ask is why or how do hamstrings affect my back? Other than that everything in the body is connected! The hamstrings originate, or attach, directly to your pelvis. The pelvis is quite a large, bony structure where your core and basis of your movement and strength come from. It is the center of the body that connects your upper body to your lower body while also housing a lot of organs and bodily functions. Now that we are fully aware of the importance of the pelvis and the roles it plays within our bodies, there are a number of muscles that act on/in/around it for the body to function; the hamstrings being one group of those muscles.
The hamstrings originate from the Ischial Tuberosity, what most of us know as our "sit bones," and span the length of the posterior, or back, side of our Femur then go past the knee joint to connect on either side of the lower leg bones (Tibia and Fibula). The muscles I speak of are named, from medial to lateral, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, and Biceps Femoris. Because of their position on the leg and where they connect, the actions of these muscles are hip extension and knee flexion. Knees are kind of an anomaly in the body because if muscles are located and act on the back they are extending the body, in contrary, if they are located and act on the front they are flexing the body; until you get to the knee. It's as if the bottom half of our legs have been detached, turned 180 degrees and reattached, in a muscle action sense. Weird, I know, but also the easiest way to think about it.
So what does all that have to do with your back? When we lean forward, as the majority of our society does most of the time, our hamstrings take the brunt of the body weight in attempts to keep us upright. This makes the hamstrings tight and overworked. As they continue to tighten down, they pull on the pelvis causing malalignment of the body in the frontal plane (splits the front body from the back body). Because you are leaning forwarding, these hamstrings are contributing to the decrease in Lordotic Curve, our low back curve that is natural for our bodies to have. By helping the hamstrings to relax we can help the body get back to it's normal alignment where it functions best. In order to do that, it is best to foam roll the hamstrings- this means your entire back of your leg! Don't skip out from hip to knee or from inner thigh to outer thigh, give all that meaty goodness some foam rollin love! This is best done after some warm up or as part of your cool down post exercise to ensure the muscle has been warmed up and can be manipulated and lengthened without injury. Along with foam rolling, hamstring stretches are another helpful tool. You can sit on your sit bones, you smarty pants now know them as Ischial Tuberosities, with your legs outstretch and reach for your toes. It is also beneficial to do one leg at a time so you can adjust as necessary to encompass all the hamstring muscles. To do this, keep one leg outstretched while the other is in close, criss cross applesauce style. Orientate your upper body so that it is facing your outstretched leg directly and reach for your toes, one hand on either side of your foot. You may say that you can't even come close to touching your toes, but the old adage of practice makes perfect rings true here. Continue to do this every time you work out or as part of your daily routine, it will get easier! Use the images below as a visual for the stretches discussed!
Hope that these 4 gospels give you some insight in to how your body works and why your low back is bothering you. Don't hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns, I'm happy to help the best I can! Happy stretching!