Low Back Pain, Sciatica and the Hamstring Muscles

Muscles play a critical component within the regular functioning on the reduced back and sciatic nerve. If any in the muscle tissues in this area come to be as well tight or too weak, they’ve the potential to trigger pain. That is ordinarily known as muscle imbalance. The hamstring muscle tissues are a popular culprit for this and it is ordinarily tightness that is the problem.

Within a similar vein to which I’ve pointed out in an short article around the piriformis muscle (“Low Back Discomfort & Sciatica – The Role of your Piriformis Muscle”) tight hamstring muscles can also have an influence over the reduced back, sacro-iliac joint and sciatic nerve.

Low Back Pain

With regards to the lower back, the hamstring muscles are attached to the bottom from the pelvis, within a similar area to the bony points of your buttock you sit on. If this muscle is tight, it will pull on the bottom of the pelvis and encourage it to rotate backwards. If there is also tightness around the low back itself, this backwards rotation movement on the pelvis will be resisted by the back and therefore the increased stress will be taken up in and around the bottom of your lower back or the sacro-iliac joint. This increased stress is likely to lead to discomfort.

Alternatively, if there is no particular tightness about the decrease back and maybe even some weakness, the increased pull resulting from the tight hamstrings may well encourage the decrease back to flex as well much, this time potentially leading to literally from the reduce back discomfort as opposed to sacro-iliac joint. Either way, pain inside the region from the reduced back can occur as a result of tight hamstring muscles.


It is slightly different as far as sciatica is concerned. The sciatic nerve is formed from 5 nerve roots which leave the decrease back from the lumbar spine and sacrum. Once formed, the sciatic nerve passes through the buttock region and down the back from the leg to the back from the knee. As it passes down the back on the leg, the sciatic nerve also passes through the hamstring muscles. Consequently, if the hamstring muscles are tight, they can place increased stress upon the sciatic nerve, leading to discomfort.

In either from the above examples, the aim of treatment is to gently stretch the hamstring muscles in order to relieve the stress being placed across the low back, sacro-iliac joint or sciatic nerve.


There are numerous ways of stretching the hamstring muscle tissues. I shall now describe a very gentle way of stretching them. Only when you feel that this stretch is too easy, should you consider progressing on with more aggressive stretches.

While lying on your back with your knees bent, gently hold behind the knee from the side to be stretched and pull your knee towards your chest, stopping when your knee is pointing directly up towards the ceiling.

When within this position, gently straighten the same knee so that your reduced leg begins to point towards the ceiling as well.

NB If your hamstrings are tight, you will not be able to get your foot to point towards the ceiling!

As you are doing this, stop as soon as you begin to feel a stretching sensation at the back of your leg.

Hold: approximately 20-30 seconds.

Repeat: 2-3 times.

Repeat: 2-3 times per day.

As you begin to gently stretch the hamstring muscle it will come to be more supple. This will result in tension being taken from the reduced back, sacro-iliac joint and hamstring muscle tissues, which in turn will encourage correct function of these areas, therefore healing will take place. As a result, your discomfort will also begin to resolve.

Be careful when performing this stretch, as it can be important you do not allow your back to flatten also much into the floor/surface you are lying on. A simple way to prevent this can be to keep your low back within a neutral position and then gently tighten your abdominal muscles.

The abdominal muscle tissues play an important role with regards to stability with the lower back and associated structures, and therefore by gently working these while performing this exercise, you will be helping to provide your reduced back and pelvis with more stability as well.

It’s unlikely, although not impossible, that your low back discomfort will resolve as a result of performing hamstring stretches alone. The chances are however, that you may need to perform one or two other exercises as well, be they stretching or strengthening exercises.

Paul Boxcer – Bsc (Hons) Physiotherapist, has over 14 years experience of treating people in discomfort. During this time and especially over the last few years, he has concentrated his treatment on those suffering with Low Back Pain & Sciatica.

For more information on how to stretch your hamstring muscles, visit:


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