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Appropriate hamstring stretches

Harmonic MinorHHarmonic Minor Posts: 31
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:36 AM in Exercise and Rehab
When I first herniated a disc in my back my chiropractor told me no hamstring stretches. With a herniated disc if you raise your leg out straight this pulls the nerve taut (as I understand, it isn't elastic) and so if there's a disc bulge it will hurt.

Because of this I haven't done any straight-leg hamstring stretches at all. Last time I saw my chiropractor a few weeks ago again he said don't do it with straight leg, but bend the knee (so lie on back and put hands around the knee/shin and pull towards you).

I think my hamstrings have become really tight and need stretching. When I lie on my back and try raise my legs the knee inevitably bends and I can't raise it straight past about 40 degrees. I actually saw a GP who told me to do normal hamstring stretches with a towel behind the calf, but I don't know which advice to listen to.

What time of hamstring stretches are appropriate for this condition and won't worsen/aggravate the pain? Thank you


  • err... that's supposed to say 'what type of...' =)
  • I dont! - they set off my scatica nerve, like heck on wheels.

    I was recently told by my Physio Therapist - Brit trained, not to bother with them ever again. He said that my back was not normal and therefore, the stretches were actually harming me. Do leg stretches, but quit with trying to get the hamstrings involved. My PT said the nerves are what is controlling this issue.

    This is for a 48 year old back, with 25+ year of abuse and working around this issue.

    I hurt myself at 20 or so, and my hamstrings were always pulling, all the years I remember. I never got them to loosen,

    I would suggest getting advice from a PT - Mckenzie trained if possible.
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  • Thank you for the reply! This goes to show that GPs over here in the uk are extremely dubious in their advice (though I needed no more evidence of this).

    I think it aggravates the nerve by pulling it taut, and obviously if the nerve is already somewhat compromised even by a small bulge - it will hurt! So I reckon my chiro was right and that if I'm going to do this stretch keep the knee bent. The only thing is, I remember I could raise my leg out straight (lying down) higher without such tightness and tension months ago, and I'm pretty sure my back is in better condition now than it was then - so I surmise that my hamstrings are tightening up and need some kind of stretching done.

    Any other thoughts/comments?
  • Here is the thing, none of us can give solid advice to write book by, each body is individual and so we have so many experiences. Makes Sense?

    I have learned after all of these years, that my best teacher, was listening to my own body. For me, meditation techniques help me center myself and listen to the sutle things that come up.

    That is just my idea of how to do this! For me- it works!

    Cheers - I wish I could tell you do XYZ and your healed, but it just never works like that! David
  • Good question, I was wondering the same thing straight leg vs bent leg. I've been doing both actually but I think the bent leg is the way to go especially if you havent done any hamstring stretchs in awhile.
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  • If by stretching you aggravate your back you will most likely do more harm than good while doing them. I have a good physical therapist and she has spent a lot of time with me on how I can stretch without hurting myself.

    Its my understanding that if you have really tight hamstrings anytime you take a long stride, get out of a car or use steps you will cause your back to be aggravated. If you are able to find a way to stretch that doesnt hurt your back, it will help releave your pain and increase your mobility. I have been taught to never lock out my leg (even if I could), and never force a stretch. I would never recommend using a towel behind your calf, the thought of this makes me hurt.

    When I was really really tight, like you are, I was told to use a towel to put at the bend at your knee and to make sure you dont pull past a 90 deg angle with your leg and to only extend your foot as high as you can without straining..and never lock out your leg. Once you get loose enough to grab behind your knee and hold with your hands, that is fine too (it took me months to get to this point).

    It took me five trys to get to a physical therapist that I trusted and I would always listen to your pt over your doctor on these issues. One thing I have heard from my surgeon and my therapist is that over time you will be the expert on your own body as you learn what makes your back hurt and what gives you relief. Good luck with all of this and here is to feeling nice and limber one day.
  • Take a look at this peer-reviewed article by our own surgeon here: http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/exercise/specific-hamstring-stretches-back-pain-relief

    As others have said, use your body as a guide - if hamstring stretches are increasing your pain levels then stop.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • Bruce, thanks for the link. I think for most people any of these stretches are great for keeping the hamstrings stretched out. For someone that has severe back issues I think there is a lot of trial and error as to what works for them. I know in my case my physical therapist told me by no means do most of the stretches listed in this article.
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