Tight hamstring muscles are a common contributor to lower back pain. The hamstring muscles run through the back of each thigh from the hip down to the back of the knee.

See Back Muscles and Low Back Pain

See how to perform the hamstring stretches on this page in the Slideshow: Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain Relief

The following stretches can gradually lengthen and reduce tension in the hamstring muscle, and in turn reduce stress felt in the lower back.


Options for hamstring stretching exercises, listed from most difficult to least difficult, include:

  • Standing Hamstring Stretch. While standing, bend forward at the waist with arms hanging down toward the ground and with legs straight, without locking the knees. Try to touch the toes but do not strain to do so. Stop bending forward when a slight pulling sensation is felt in the hamstring. This form of exercise is not always recommended as it may be difficult to do, and even exacerbate pain from a lumbar herniated disc, spondylolisthesis or other specific conditions.

    Watch: Standing Hamstring Stretch for Low Back Pain Relief Video

  • Chair Hamstring Stretch. Sitting on a chair, place one leg straight out on another chair in front of the body. Reach toward the toes and stretch one leg at a time.

    Watch: Seated Chair Hamstring Stretch for Low Back Pain Relief Video


Hamstring stretches have been shown to be most effective when done for a duration of 30 to 60 seconds. 1 Bandy WD. Irion JM. The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Phys Ther. 1994 Sep; 74(9):845-50; discussion 850-2. Stretching should be done twice daily and on a regular basis. It can be easier to remember to do the stretches if they are incorporated into a daily routine, such as when getting up every morning and going to bed each night.

Dr. Jonas Gopez is a neurosurgeon with more than 15 years of clinical experience treating back conditions. He specializes in spinal trauma, complex spinal surgery, and procedures for pain management.

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