This time, we will talk about the hamstrings, a muscle group composed of three muscles (the biceps femoris, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus) that are often very important in the field of physiotherapy. These muscles are located at the back of the thigh and are essential for good mobility and stability of the hip and knee.
What are the main pathologies and injuries affecting this muscle group?
Below is a list of pathologies and diseases that affect them, along with a brief explanation of each one:
- Hamstring contracture: This is an involuntary and persistent contraction of these muscles, which can cause pain, limitation of movement and muscle weakness.
- Hamstring tendonitis: An inflammation of the hamstring tendon, which can be caused by overuse, trauma or overexertion.
- Hamstring tear or rupture: A muscle injury in which the hamstring muscle fibres rupture partially or completely, which can cause severe pain, swelling and limitation of movement. This usually occurs when these muscles are overstretched or overloaded. Muscle tears can be mild or severe, depending on the number of muscle fibres affected.
- Piriformis syndrome: This is an injury to the piriformis muscle, which is located in the gluteal region, but can radiate pain to the hamstrings, causing muscle weakness and pain in the back of the thigh.
- Short hamstring syndrome: A condition in which the hamstring muscles shorten and lose flexibility, which can cause pain in the lower back, hips, knees and ankles.
- Inner popliteal sciatic neuralgia: This is an injury to the sciatic nerve at the back of the thigh, which can cause pain, tingling and muscle weakness in the leg.
What are the benefits of working these muscles?
Working them can provide a variety of health and physical performance benefits. Below, we will list and explain some of them:
- Improved flexibility: This muscle group tends to shorten due to sedentary lifestyles or activities that involve sitting for long periods of time. Stretching these muscles can improve their flexibility and decrease the risk of injury.
- Injury prevention: These muscles are important for knee and hip stability, so if they are not strong, it can increase the risk of injury to these areas.
- Improved posture: This muscle group has a great influence on the position of the pelvis and spine. For this reason, if they are tight or weak, it can affect posture and cause back pain.
- Increased strength: They are an important muscle group for performing physical activities such as running, jumping and weight lifting, so strengthening these muscles can improve performance in these activities.
- Improved circulation: Working these muscles can improve blood circulation in the legs and reduce swelling.
- Physiotherapists can help their patients develop appropriate exercise programmes to work these muscles and achieve the above benefits.
Exercises that work
It is important to remember to always talk to patients before recommending a new exercise programme and to check that they are doing the exercises correctly to avoid injury. Here are some exercises that can help to work them:
- Hamstring stretches: this is a simple stretching exercise that can be done at home without the need for equipment. To do this, the patient should lie on the floor with the legs stretched out and place a towel or belt around the ball of the foot. The patient should then pull the towel or belt towards him/herself to feel a stretch in the hamstrings. To complete the stretch, hold the position for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Gluteal bridges with one leg: this exercise works the hamstrings and buttocks. First, the patient should lie on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then, lift one leg and press the heel of the other leg into the floor while lifting the pelvis. To finish, hold the position for a few seconds and lower your pelvis. It is recommended to perform 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.
- Seated heel raises: This exercise works the hamstrings, calves and calf muscles. To perform it, the patient has to sit on a chair with his or her feet flat on the floor. The heels should then be lifted and held for a few seconds before slowly lowering them. It is recommended to perform 10 to 15 repetitions.
- Deadlift with straight legs: This is a strength exercise that works the hamstrings, buttocks and lower back muscles. To perform it, the patient must hold a weight or dumbbell in his hands and place his feet shoulder-width apart. Then, the patient should bend at the waist and slowly lower the dumbbell to the floor, keeping the legs straight. Finally, slowly lift the dumbbell back to the starting position. In general, it is recommended to perform 8 to 12 repetitions.
- Ball slide: This exercise works the hamstrings and glutes. The patient should sit on the floor with his legs straight and a stability ball under his feet. The patient should then slowly slide the ball towards him, bending his knees and lifting his hips off the floor. Finally, hold the position for a few seconds before sliding the ball back to the starting position. It would be advisable to perform 10 to 15 repetitions.
In conclusion, the hamstrings are a fundamental muscle group in the movement of the human body. It is important to take care of them in order to prevent injuries and, should they occur, to treat them appropriately through physiotherapy.
In the rehabilitation of injuries to this muscle group, physiotherapists can use a variety of techniques, such as therapeutic massage, specific stretching, electrotherapy and strengthening exercises. The application of heat or cold to reduce inflammation and pain may also be useful.