Hamstring Injury: Getting To The Root Of The Problem

"Do you have any suggestions for a very bad hamstring injury?  I've had chiropractic treatments, rolfing, deep tissue massage, active release therapy, etc.  I would love to get to the root cause."  -JoAnne
P.S. I'm a Pilates Instructor and I LOVE Anatomy!



1) What do you mean by "very bad hamstring injury"? 
PAINFUL, wakes me up at night. Sometimes it hurts sitting or standing. Definitely bothers me during barre class- hip extensions and standing on one leg - the right. Back extension work in Pilates, like superman.

2) When did it happen? Approximately six years ago.

3) How did it happen? 
Yoga, doing triangle pose. Something popped and I went down.

4) Is it the medial or lateral hamstring group that bother you?
I think the lateral - biceps femoris.

5) Which Leg?  Right.

6) Is there anything else you want to tell me?
I have had the following treatments: Reiki, acupuncture, Rolfing, Active release therapy, deep tissue massage, physical therapy, etc. in the never-ending quest to find relief. I am a fully certified Stott Pilates instructor, I just became Booty Barre certified, TRX certified, and AAFA group fitness certification. Oh and Powerplate too.

Are "injured muscles" torn?  Tight?  Inflamed?

When I work with people on muscular complaints and body awareness, I avoid looking at the symptom (hamstring injury).  I leave that to doctors.  An inflamed, torn or tight hamstring is likely one that’s been over-used.  In JoAnn's case, the lateral hamstring(s) or biceps femoris muscles that are sending a clear message of dysfunction to the brain.  

They are like the child that tattle-tales....

"Hey Brain - some of the other muscles aren't doing their job!  Waaah."

There wasn't enough stability in her hip to perform the Triangle Pose, but it tried anyhow and didn't succeed.  Her body won't allow her to do that movement (and many other's) without pain, until the instability (weakness) is addressed.

The reason the modalities she's been trying aren't working is because they seek to alleviate the symptom (tightness) and sometimes they work wonderfully.  But, not in this case.  

Compensation Happens
Each of your 400+ muscles has many functions so they can "do each other's jobs" temporarily or permanently when needed.  It's amazing how many back-up plans your body has to facilitate movement!  However, a substitute doesn't do the job as well long-term, because it has others jobs to do also.  

When you overwork, don't you get stressed out and angry (inflamed)?  I do!  That's what's happening with JoAnn's lateral hamstring group.  We have to turn our attention to finding the muscles that are "hiding from the brain".   Just like a child about to get in trouble, they hide to avoid punishment, or in a muscles case, having to do work (contract).      

Every move you make requires dozens and sometimes hundreds of muscles to complete the movement efficiently.  To do more advanced and challenging movements, the muscles all need to be strong enough to perform.  Injuries, postural habits and individual differences all account for reasons why some muscles are stronger than others.  The strong ones get over-worked in challenging poses like Triangle, until the weak ones are identified and strengthened using very precise exercises.  

Most people don't spend enough time preparing their body for challenging exercises like Yoga, Marathons, Skiing, etc.  They do their best with the exercise information that's out there, but there is something more to be discovered and applied...

every hamstring injury is different

I've worked around dozens of hamstring injuries and every person has different hip muscles that are weak.  When we strengthen them, the tightness lessens and many times the pain goes away as a result of better balance in the system.  

No matter what the cause of the injury.... JoAnn has to identify where the weakness is in her own unique body, to alleviate the tightness (pain signal).  Easier said than done.  There is no short cut in this situation.  She has to explore where the specific weakness is coming from, which requires anatomy knowledge and body awareness.  This is why I developed Andy's Online Anatomy Program, to teach people the anatomy and body awareness pieces in a step by step system that's affordable.

What JoAnn Can Do Now

Hamstring Muscles from Andy's Online Anatomy Program

Hamstring Muscles from Andy's Online Anatomy Program

There are about 20 muscles acting at the hip joint.  Any one of them could be weak on the right or left hip.    

She can find weaknesses by doing small, isolated, isometric hip exercises in each plane of motion.  Hip abduction, adduction, extension and flexion are movements to compare with light resistance.  Using internal rotation, external rotation and neutral positions will switch what muscles are being recruited and help her narrow it down.    

By comparing her right and left side with small, subtle exercises, she can feel when one side doesn't contract the same way as the other.  It'll feel like there is a connection missing.  


Until the weak muscles are identified and strengthened, JoAnn's body will keep over-using the biceps femoris and other lateral hip muscles, because it works.  

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