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Aching hamstrings when sitting

twc151home2010-07-03 15:45:20 +0000 #1
I am new to the forum. Here's a thumbnail sketch to give more experienced practitioners a better idea of my current situation. I have been practicing yoga for about 2 years, and consider myself a beginner. My practice is usually 4-6 times per week from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on my schedule.

I am 57 years old, 6' tall, and weigh 165 lbs. I have a very good diet and am quite nutritionally aware. I never get sick, have a happy view towards life and other people, sleep well, and have maintained pretty low stress in my life. I run for exercise, generally barefoot or in unstructured moccasins (lower impact, feels better, etc). I usually do yoga following a run, after I have warmed my muscles up. I have been a runner for a long time, and generally go 4-5 miles a day 5-6 times a week, but occasionally will take off for 15 mile runs now and again. I don't do races or marathons, or run with anyone else. I run as little on roads as possible, so it is mostly trail running--uneven surfaces, etc. I have excellent balance and am very fit. Unfortunately, I work at a computer for 8-12 hours on most days. I used to sit down while working, but had a standing desk built for me increasingly due to the problem I am going to describe.

Since I began my yoga practice, my hamstrings have become tight and, when I sit at a desk or in the driver's seat of a car, they hurt. I admit that I am sometimes too aggressive in many poses (particularly forward bends of all sorts) from time to time, and have been working on paying more attention with less determination and being patient with my body. It actually feels really, really good to stretch out my hamstrings aggressively, but I do think this is the root cause of my problem.

Over the weekend, I took a long drive. After about three hours, both of my hamstrings were in excruciating pain. I got out, stood up, did a warrior 1, 2, and 3, and they felt better as soon as I was standing. But when I got back into the driver's seat, they started to ache again within a few minutes. The acute pain is definitely new. I have had some aching develop over the last year or so while sitting for extended periods working on my computer (why I got the standing desk, which I love BTW), but nothing like this.

I believe this hamstring issue is undoubtedly connected with the running (since everything is connected to everything). Yet, prior to my starting yoga, I ran pretty much the same as I do now for decades and I never experienced this type of hamstring pain. I used to do some modest stretching after a run, but nothing like 30-60 minutes of yoga poses.

I know I am getting older, etc, but I really don't feel as though this is an age-related issue. I have always been very body aware, and this hamstring pain only began to develop about 18 months ago (6 months after starting yoga) so I am thinking while it may also have to do with running, it is the running in combination with something I am doing in my yoga practice. Most likely, I think it is simply being too determined in my forward bend poses, but here's what I am going to do and would like comments on:

1) Take time off from yoga to rest my hamstrings. I plan on at least a week and maybe more, depending on how I feel. The hamstrings don't hurt when I'm standing, walking, running, or even just sitting in a chair. They hurt when I sit for extended periods in an upright position such as at a desk or driver's seat. Should I rest for more than a week? Two weeks? Three? More? Anybody have any experience with this sort of thing?

2) When I start yoga again, I plan to be much more gentle with all of the poses that stretch the hamstrings. Should I avoid those poses?

3) When I start yoga again, I plan to bend more from my hips with a straighter back, even if I do not go down as far. Is this a good idea?

4) When I start yoga again, I may also bend my legs in some of the poses to reduce the stretch on the hamstrings while I gently work them over time. What about this as a concept for moving gently back into the swing of things?

Does anyone have specific suggestions and specific poses or alignment ideas for my current circumstance?

Thanks so much for reading this post and considering this issue. I appreciate any assistance more experienced practitioners may be able to offer. I fully recognize that you don't know me and cannot be as specific as you might be if you did know me personally, which is why I have tried to give an extended description of the situation. I will welcome any comments.



InnerAthlete2010-07-03 15:59:57 +0000 #2
Hello Tim,

This is a very thorough outline however there are two elements which are omitted. The first is the definition of the term "yoga". Even if I were to presume you are talking about asana (postures) there are some very fiery practices and some very sloth-like ones.

The second is the nature of the pain. You say "hamstrings" and I'd like to know if this pain is in the belly of the muscle - that is, half way between the sitting bones and the knee. Additionally, is this a sharp, constant pain or a dull achey pain? Does it go immediately upon standing? And are you having it when sitting for long periods no matter what you are sitting on?

Also, who is teaching you and have you had this conversation with that person?
twc151home2010-07-03 16:21:05 +0000 #3
Hi Gordon,

In answer to your questions, I should reiterate that I know I am not as well-instructed, or as well-informed as I might be. I am not really even sure of all the various schools of yoga. As I mentioned in my original post, I consider myself a beginner.

I started a couple of years ago practicing in a fitness club, working with whichever instructor happened to be teaching the class. While there were many variations on a theme, the poses each one taught seemed fairly similar--even if their individual classes were quite distinct. I would go 2-3 times a week. While I had never had anything like it before I started going to the yoga classes, hamstring pain was developing on my left side, which was in evidence as a dull and achey feeling in the muscle if driving for longer distances. I didn't think anything of it. Just a minor annoyance, I concluded.

After about a year, I stopped going to the fitness club, and started to practice at home. I tried a whole series of DVDs before deciding that I really liked Rodney Yee's routines the best. As I increased my use of Rodney Yee's DVDs (which was much more convenient than driving to the fitness club on someone else's schedule), I found the hamstring pain to increase slowly as the months went by, and as I got more aggressive--which actually feels really good while I'm doing it!

As to the question of a fiery vs. sloth-like, I would characterize Rodney somewhere in the middle, depending on which of his DVDs you are working with. Some are more rigorous than others, to be sure. Please don't misunderstand me, though, I cannot place any of my current situation on anyone's shoulders but my own. I think I have not been as patient as I could be, and have tended to really push myself too far, particularly when it comes to my hamstrings.

Now as to the definition of hamstring, yes, I am speaking of the belly of the muscles in between the knee and hip. It is bilateral, although it started primarily on one side (the left). I originally thought it was my piriformis pinching the sciatica nerve (which may still be an issue of another sort). However, as I paid closer attention, I noted that the tightness in my hamstrings was really notable, and, while worse on the left, was on both sides and felt related to certain of the poses I was doing.

Then, a couple of months ago, both hamstrings started to ache when seated at my desk (for the first time ever). It started out as kind of a dull ache, and never got going full tilt until 6-7 hours of sitting, (not all in a row, I stand up to talk on the phone, and stretch every 30-45 minutes)

It does not seem to be nearly as acute when I sit on the sofa in my office, which would lead me to believe the car seat and the desk chair are compounding the problem. I changed the desk chair, which didn't really help, and any car seat seems to cause the same pain. This would lead me to conclude that perhaps it has more to do with what I am doing when I sit (i.e. working on a keyboard, or using the accelerator and brake when I drive). In both cases, of course, I hold a fairly static position for extended periods. Then in last weekend's long drive in the car, after a couple of hours, I developed searing (sharp and constant) bilateral hamstring pain which went away as soon as I stood up.

Before I started yoga, I used to be able to drive for hours and sit at a desk without pain. It seemed that as I increased the amount of time spent in yoga poses, the pain in my legs got much worse. I hasten to add that I have not shared this with an instructor, because I do not have one. Plus, I am keenly aware of my tendency to push myself in poses, particularly when it feels really good to do so, as is the case with anything that stretches my hamstrings vigorously.

So what do you think of my suggested actions as I set them out in my original post? Do they make sense from your experience? Do you have any other suggestions as to appropriate actions I can take (or refrain from) that might be of some help?

Thanks again for your compassion and assistance. I appreciate it.

InnerAthlete2010-07-03 16:21:35 +0000 #4
Thanks Tim for a more robust outline.

Still there are several possibilities and nothing is leaping out at me.

I'm curious for another puzzle piece please. Can you tell me what postures Rodney has you doing in your practice? Specifically, what standing poses and hamstring openers are you doing, in what way(s) and for what duration.

Long periods of sitting are ill-advised no matter how great one feels or how many years of doing that very thing free of pain. The hip flexors become shorter but they are not contracted when doing so and this typically leads to lower back pain.

I'd like to see you spend some time with a therapeutically trained yoga teacher or at very least a P/T to get an assessment. Would be much easier than trying to gues with clues without actually seeing you.



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