There are three large muscles located at the back of thigh that are collectively referred to as the hamstring muscles. This muscle group includes the semimembranosus, the semitendinosus and the biceps femoris. When the hamstring muscles become tight, walking and running can become painful. Injuries, strain and disuse are all common causes of tightened hamstrings. There are a variety of different ways to loosen your hamstrings, some of which require no equipment or special treatments.
Stretch your hamstrings by sitting on the floor with one leg slightly bent and the foot of that leg flat on the floor. Keep the other leg stretched out straight, and roll the straight leg inward and hold it as you lean forward for a count of 30 seconds, according to the experts at LiveStrong.com. Rotate the straightened leg outward and repeat, then switch legs.
Lie flat on your back on the floor and raise one leg into the air. Support it with your hands, and have a partner gently press the leg towards your head until you feel a stretch in your thigh. This type of dynamic stretching is very effective for loosening tight hamstrings, according to SportsInjuryClinic.net.
Stretch before exercising or walking for an extended amount of time. Injuries like popliteus tenosynovitis, a tear in the tendons running along the outside of the knee, can occur if your hamstrings are too tight during physical activity, according to Drugs.com.
Practice yoga postures that are designed to stretch all the muscles of the legs, including the hamstrings. According to Yoga Journal, positions like Downward Dog stretch the calves and the hamstrings without putting strain or stress on tight muscles.
Apply heat to tight hamstring muscles to encourage them to loosen up. A hot pack, wrapped in cloth, can be applied to the back of your thighs for 20 minutes at a time, says LiveStrong.com. This treatment works well when applied after an exercise session or stretching.
Visit a physician or chiropractor if you are also experiencing tightness, strain or pain in your lower back. Lower back problems can stress the hamstring muscles and must be treated before tight hamstrings will loosen. Schedule an appointment with a sports massage therapist. Massage increases the blood flow and can gently stretch the hamstring muscles.
Do not try to force tight hamstrings to stretch. If you experience pain during stretching, lessen the amount of stretch or stop the session. Forcing tight muscles to stretch can cause tears in the muscles or tendons.