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Hamstring Exercises for Lower back pain

The hamstrings insert on the ischial tuberosity, which is the sit bone -- it's part of the pelvis -- and extend all the way down to the knee. When they're tight, however, they shorten and hence pull down on the pelvis, giving way to a posterior pelvic tilt and then flattening out the lumbar spine so that the natural curve of the lumbar spine is lost. And this puts the person at risk for a herniated disk and also just overuse and strain of the lumbar area.

Since your pelvis is the foundation of your lower back and spine, having tight hamstrings contributes to an unstable lower back and a greater chance of intermittent sprains and strains.

It is important to maintain a good hamstring length, if you're sitting a lot. You can do some stretches right at your desk.

How do you know if your hamstrings are tight?

The best way to assess hamstring length is to lie flat on your back and have someone slowly raise one leg. Your leg must be completely relaxed, and you must not help lift the leg with your own muscles. If your hamstrings are at an appropriate length for your body, your leg can be raised to 90 degrees off the ground (straight up towards the ceiling) without any significant tightness anywhere along your hamstrings from behind your knee to your sitting bone (pelvis). If you start to feel tightness before 90 degrees, you know it�s time to stretch!

Hamstring stretch while lying on the back

Most patients with back pain will benefit from hamstring stretching exercises done while lying on the back. These are the least stressful types of hamstring stretch:

  • Lie on the back, supporting the thigh behind the knee with the hand or with a towel, slowly straighten the knee until a stretch is felt in the back of the thigh, trying to get the bottom of the foot to face the ceiling, one leg at a time. Hold the position initially for 10 seconds, and gradually work up to 20-30 seconds.

  • Another low stress hamstring stretch is to lie back on the floor with the buttocks against a wall at a corner or by a door jamb. Keeping one leg on the floor, place the foot of the alternate leg against the wall and try to gently push the knee straight so raised leg and the leg on the floor make a 90 degree angle. Hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds.

Hamstring stretch while sitting

Although they are less gentle than lying on the back, hamstring stretches can also be done in a sitting position, where the degree of stretch can be varied based on the placement of the leg:

  • While sitting at the edge of a chair, straighten one leg in front of the body with the heel on the floor. Then, sit up straight and try pushing the navel towards the thigh without leaning the trunk of the body forwards. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat 3 times for each leg.

  • Many people � and especially women � tend to be more flexible and may need to elevate the foot on a stool or chair to get a deep enough stretch.


It is best to stretch your hamstrings later on in the day, or after a good warm up such as after a brisk walk or jog. The key is to get lots of blood going through your muscles before you stretch. Alternating between legs for a few minutes each day is enough for most people.

You should hold any stretch for about ten to fifteen seconds. Don't bounce into the stretch. And of course, always do both sides, so you're nice and even.

Many people with chronic lower back pain can experience dramatic improvement after stretching their hamstrings on a daily basis for 1-3 months. If you don�t have lower back problems, stretching your hamstrings everyday is an excellent preventive measure that will keep your lower back and pelvis balanced for the years ahead.

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