Are you cheating with your hamstring stretches?
Alex Sherborne, Physiotherapist
Consider yourself fit but can’t touch your toes anymore?
Hamstring tightness results from both repetitive exercise and long periods of sitting. Longer, relaxed hamstrings can relieve knee and back pain, posture and can improve your performance when running, kicking or dancing. When it comes to lengthening and relaxing these muscles, I find people are very good at cheating (whether they mean to or not!). We have two hamstring muscles on the inside of the leg and only one on the outside, so people tend to turn their leg out to make it easier.
While you are standing, bend forward and try to touch your toes. Take a mental note of how far you get. Recheck this after doing the stretch below… If you take a few minutes to do this stretch 3 times a week, you will see a huge improvement in your hamstring flexibility over time.
Lying Hamstring Stretch
Extract New Bodyworks
Lying Hamstring Stretch
Lie on you back with one leg bent and one straight.
Loop a belt or towel around the foot of the straight leg. Use your arms to pull the leg up until a stretch is felt behind the knee – keeping the leg straight. This should be firm, but not painful.
Once the stretch has started to relax in this position, slowly rotate the leg in- you will feel an increased stretch on the inside of the knee, then rotate the leg out to decrease the stretch- all the time keeping the leg up using your belt/towel.
Repeat for 10 – 15 seconds, relax a little, then increase the stretch by moving the straight leg a little further towards your head.
Be sure to relax your neck and shoulders, and keep breathing as you do this stretch.
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How often do you stop and stretch?
The human body was made to move! We are definitely not meant to sit still for hours at a time. However, we are all guilty of sitting at screens for far too long without moving. It can be so easy to become engrossed in a task that we don’t realise how much time has actually passed.
Over time, this can lead to neck and back pain, as well as other injuries. Frequent stretch breaks (every 30-45mins) also ensure you stay more mentally alert and productive.
There are hundreds of apps out there to help remind you to move through the day.
Some software to consider:
Or for those that prefer a physical reminder, a vibrating activity tracker might be the way to go. The wristband will alert you if you are not moving enough, and encourage you to move to reset the inactivity timer.
But it can also be as simple as setting a reminder on you PC or phone to get up and move every 30 minutes. Get a glass of water. Walk and chat to a colleague instead of sending an email. Any excuse to move will benefit your body.
Exercises to try during your break:
- Stretching the pectorals improves circulation to the hands and reduces neck and shoulder tension.
Place your hand in the doorframe, keeping the elbow bent and pulling your shoulder blade down towards the floor. Slowly rotate your body away from your hand, to create a gentle stretch along the front of the chest. Progress this exercise by moving your hand further up the door to stretch the forearm. Hold for 20 seconds, release, and repeat on the other side.
- To release tension in the upper back, cross your arms and put one hand on the outside of each knee. Pull back with your shoulder blades as you gently press the knees into your hands. Hold 15seconds, repeat 2-3 times.
- Eye exercises: simply looking out into the distance regularly is important in reducing screen related eye strain.
We all have tendencies to hold tension in different areas, so an individualised repertoire of exercises, determined by your physiotherapist is essential.
For advice on specific exercises you can do regularly at work, speak to your physiotherapist.
By Alla Melman, Physiotherapist
Sacro-Iliac Joint Pain
by Penny Elliott, Physiotherapist
If you have back pain that is not in the middle of the lower back but is slightly to one side, it may be a problem with the sacroiliac joint (SIJ). The usual reason for an ache in this joint is poor alignment because of muscle imbalance. Tight hip flexors and adductors and weak core stability or pelvic floor muscles are usually associated with sacroiliac joint pain. Pregnancy can also cause problems in this joint because of the extra weight it is bearing. In this case a sacroiliac belt can give a lot of relief and stabilise the joint more effectively.
The starting point is to ease the pain with stretching of gluteus maximus, medius, minimus and the piriformis, and then commence stability work. If you feel as though your pelvis ‘goes out’ all the time, or you have pain referral through your gluteals, this stretch can help you stop the pain cycle.
If you have knee pain however, please do not do this stretch, but consult with a physiotherapist.
Extract New Bodyworks 2013
Sacro-Iliac Joint, Gluteals & Piriformis Stretch
Place your foot on a bench or up on a high chair. Let the knee drop out a little.
Now bend your supporting leg to take any stress of the lower back and then lean the trunk forward onto the hands until you feel a stretch in the hip and buttock of the leg that’s on the bench.
Hold for about 10 -15 seconds and then repeat on each side for a few repetitions.