Adaptive muscle shortening and Hamstrings.
Hamstrings form an important muscle of the core and is actively involved in movement of the body. The hamstrings muscles originate from the pelvic bone/hip bone & insert below the knee joint spanning the entire length of the thigh. It’s a muscle group constituted by Biceps femoris, semi-memberanosus, semi-tendinosus and the gracilis. Collectively these muscles are grouped as ‘Hamstrings’.
The essential function of hamstrings is to extend the hip and flex the knee. The role is phasic and muscle fibres are recruited in a synchronous fashion with other groups. The maximum length of muscle is when the athlete is just about to put the forward step on the ground i.e. the end of swing phase.
Many running athletes experience excessive pain and soreness post running which negatively reinforces them for their next run. The most commonly seen habit in some of these amateurs is lack of time spent in stretching and forming a correct muscle balance. Some lack the practice of cooling down after the run.
What is Adaptive muscle shortening ?
Adaptive muscle shortening also has a major role to play in the pathogenesis of a ‘Tight/Short’ hamstring syndrome. Essentially it involves shortening of a muscle because of prolonged relaxed state as in sitting down in an office chair. As a result, tight hamstrings have small stride lengths because of lack of hip flexion. In case the hip flexors compensate for it, the excess knee flexion leads to a small cadence. The stride pattern starts to suffer. The patients who still persist, end up having hamstring injuries and excess wear at the patello-femoral joint (Anterior knee pain).
Adaptive muscle shortening usually occurs because of chronic bad posture. Bad posture leads to excess stretching of a muscle group and relaxation of the other. The relaxed muscles adapt to a shorter length over time and leads to bio-mechanically poor core muscle and posture. Upper and lower crossed syndromes are perfect examples of the muscle imbalances.
How do I diagnose it?
Stand as comfortable in front of your mirror and note your posture while you stand erect both from side and front. Sit down in your office chair relaxed and look at your posture again. A posture that might make you feel comfortable may not be the RIGHT posture.
A flexible hamstring will allow complete range of movement without pain or stretch.
Specifically, for the hamstrings, if you are able to fully extend one knee at 90 (with foot facing the roof) to the other leg completely touching the bed (foot facing the wall at 90 degree), you don’t have short hamstrings. In case both legs aren’t fully extended at 90 degrees to each other, you probably have a hamstring sprain.
How do I treat it ?
Here are simple steps which can help you relish sports again! The following dynamic and static stretches we learnt in primary classes are good enough to place you right. The images are representative of stretching exercises everyone should follow to treat and prevent hamstring soreness and poor posture.