Muscle Tightness in Runners

Photo of a woman stretching her calf.
You can do the runner's stretch to improve hamstring and calf flexibility. Buff spandex / Getty Images

After running, you may feel a tightness and pulling sensation in your muscles, often across the back of your thigh. This tight, pulling sensation is actually a common complaint of runners. What you are experiencing is tightness of the hamstring muscles. The action of this muscle group is to bend the knee and extend the hip; the movement performed when pushing off the ground when running.

To prevent these muscles from becoming "tight," it is important to stretch them immediately before and after running any amount of distance.

With effective hamstring stretching, the muscle fibers will lengthen and the pulling/tight sensation will decrease. Hamstring stretching is also an important way to prevent running injuries.

Why Does The Hamstring Get Tight?

Tightness in your hamstrings may be caused by several factors. These may include:

  • Water content and hydration
  • Genetics
  • Flexibility
  • Overuse or injury

If you experience excessive tightness in your hamstrings, check in with your doctor and then visit your physical therapist to get started on the best treatment for you. Your physical therapist can assess your condition and offer you the best exercises to keep your hamstrings moving.

Remember, your hammys are a part of your entire kinetic chain in your lower extremities. Focusing only on your hamstrings is not the best care. Your PT may prescribe exercises to strengthen your hips, stretch your quads, or improve flexibility in your calves as part of your hamstring rehab program.

Don't be surprised if your physical therapist takes a holistic approach to keeping your hamstrings healthy.

Running can place incredible stress and strain on your lower extremities. By checking in with your physical therapist and by stretching your hamstrings regularly, you can be sure to continue running pain-free for many, many miles.

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