How pelvic tilt influences hamstring tightness
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
I subscribe to a number of blogs, podcasts, and accounts on Instagram related to anatomy and kinesiology and it's no secret that education is one of the core values here at Knead to Run Massage.
So when I got an email from a PT in Boston whose blog and podcast I subscribe to about pelvic tilt I started to geek out a little.
If you've been a client for any length of time, you've no doubt heard about me talk about pelvic tilt, especially if you are a runner or have lower back pain. If you haven't, I'm slacking and need to get on that.
Your pelvis is the point for which every other structural issue in your body can be tied to.
Consider it ground zero.
When the pelvis is in "normal alignment" everything else up and down the chain is balanced. If your pelvis is not stable, you end up with too much of a tilt which then causes muscles to become too long or short (based on which way the pelvis is tilting) to try and compensate.
There are 2 types of pelvic tilt, anterior and posterior. For the sake of simplicity of this post we only be talking about pelvic tilt in the sagittal, or forward plane. There is a type of pelvic tilt called A-symmetrical, where only one side of your pelvis is shifted, but we will not be addressing that here.
Every person has some degree of curvature in their spines. People with too much of an anterior pelvic tilt develops an over exaggerated lumbar curve, called a lordosis. This also causes the hamstrings to elongate and tighten up and the quadriceps to shorten.
Conversely, those with too much of a posterior pelvic tilt develop a flat back (and butt). This causes the quads to become too long and tight and the hamstrings to become too short.
Both too much anterior or posterior pelvic tilt is a problem for a number of other reasons. Among them are a decrease of power during the gait cycle, instability of the pelvis that can cause back pain, and quad dominance which is when a runner uses their quadricep muscles too much because their hamstrings and glutes aren't working in the proper order.
Let's get back to the hamstrings.
All too often runners will call the office because they have either pulled their hamstring or a prior hamstring injury that is affecting their athletic performance. And despite stretching and in some cases rehab therapy, they are still plagued with hamstring issues.
They are usually making the following mistakes:
Stretching muscles that are weak and over stretched
Over irritating micro-tears or scar tissue at the tendon attachment
Only stretching the muscle that is "tight" or painful
By continuing to stretch a muscle that is already stretched out, you're accentuating the problem. Stretching a muscle and over-irritating scar tissue can create more pain or a deeper tear and only stretching your hamstring deepens the imbalance between your hamstrings, your quads and your pelvis.
Remember, the body craves balance and the way to achieve that is a process.
First, you need balance the overly tight muscles with some soft tissue work that target chronic tension and built up scar tissue.
This will help give the muscles the correct amount of slack or tension balance--think pulley system.
This takes a number of sessions before the brain fully catches on that permanent changes are being made and after a couple of hours or days your body will revert back to it's original posture because that is what the brain knows.
In the meantime, you may experience more discomfort and even new areas of discomfort before fully resolving the issue.
Then then need a corrective exercise and strengthening program to stabilize the weak muscles and maintain the optimal balance.
Finally, you also need to increase your pelvic stability to help correct and stabilize the overly anterior or overly posterior pelvic tilt.
By performing the steps in the right order you can finally put an end to hamstring tightness, back pain, and increase your athletic performance.
If you're suffering from hamstring dysfunction or low back pain when you run, schedule a phone consultation to see if I can help.