Tight Quads? Tight Hamstrings? It might not be your muscles!
Nerves supply the muscles. Nerves need movement too!
Feeling tightness in the back of the leg is often the most common tightness people tell us about. It usually starts with “I can’t touch my toes!” This is most commonly felt in the hamstring muscle, but if it is only on one side more than the other we can start thinking it may be more nervous system related. In other words, you need to ask yourself "why is it only on one side?" The answer is because the feeling of tightness is driven by your nervous system.
This starts with the spinal cord which travels all the way up to your neck and ends with the sciatic nerve that goes down the back of the leg and all the way down to your toes!
The video (above) shows a slouching position and then raising one leg while seated. Imagine the nerve was a string we would be pulling tight in that position. Allowing that nerve and the tension from it to move in and out of that position can help decrease the tightness in the hamstrings that you may be feeling!
If we stick with the string analogy we start back up at the neck. It travels down the spine but this time the nerve that supplies the quadriceps is the femoral nerve and this runs down the front of the body and leg. The video shows a position commonly known as cobra. When the head looks up at the ceiling and we bring our heel to our butt we are putting the “string” (femoral nerve) on tension. Moving in and out of this position can provide relief of pressure or tightness or quads that could be a result of a multitude of things.
Our muscles are rarely truly “shortened.” What is usually occurring is our nervous system protecting our body by making it feel more tense and tight. This can be from being in positions for too long, overloading or overtraining, or other movement variables. The key is, it is normal to have tightness every now and then. By allowing the nerves to move freely in and out of tension can be a great way for some nutritious movement and positive input for your nervous system.