The fat and muscles found behind the knee are attributed by the word 'ham' while 'strings' is meant for the tendons (cord or band of inelastic tissues connecting a muscle with its bony attachment). Modern anatomy defines hamstrings as posterior-thigh muscles or the tendons of the semitendinosus (muscle in the back of the thigh). The function of the hamstrings comprises many crucial activities which we perform day in and day out. These include walking, running, jumping, and controlling some movement in the trunk. Most people, especially sportsmen, complain of a feeling of tightness in their hamstrings.
One of the identified factors which cause the hamstrings to tighten is related to genetic factors. It is common to find children and women being more supple than men. People who are not used to performing proper stretching exercises prior to or post their sports activities are prone to this condition. People who have a medical history of back pain are more vulnerable to this problem. This is because the lower-back problems may pressurize the sciatic nerve that runs down the legs and eventually cause tightening of the hamstrings.
Apart from these causes, even sitting in the same place for longer hours, such as in office can also lead to this condition. The hamstrings do not perform any function while sitting, and hence are inactive and stay at a shortened length. Older people with a sedentary lifestyle also suffer from this condition when they try to bend down or perform other activities, which require both hip flexion and knee extension.
There are no specific symptoms which indicate this condition. The very tightness that one feels in the hamstring region is apparent and easily noticeable. A fixed sway back, unable to bend at the hips while keeping the legs straight, buttock pain, and pain while sitting are the prominent symptoms. Also, there are a few complications which may result from this condition; muscle tear being a common one. The hips and pelvis may be rotated back as a result of this problem. This in turn may flatten the lower back, eventually causing back problems. Joint problems and restricted movements are the other complications which may arise.
Applying heat to the affected area helps ease the pain and loosen up the tight muscles. Apart from using heat, performing some dedicated-stretching exercises is also one of the recommended treatment methods. These exercises work best when done after warm-up exercises. Also, having your legs and hips massaged, encourages the hamstrings to loosen up and reduce the tightness. Strengthening the structural weaknesses in the body in conjunction with the stretching exercises will also help.
Frequent instances of tight hamstrings may have severe repercussions. So, the best way to keep the problem at bay is to inculcate a regular schedule of exercises on a daily basis.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.