Icing your hamstrings
If my last post on hamstring fascia, dynamic stretches and neural releases did not help your tight hamstrings, don’t despair! A second technique invented by Janet Travell is revealed in this post. She was the first female physician appointed to the White House. She treated President Kennedy for his chronic back pain from a World War II injury.
My physical therapist introduced Dr. Travell’s technique of icing a muscle spasm (trigger point) to my hamstring. At that time, I had hamstring tendinitis. Even though I usually can touch the floor with the palms of my hands, this pain prevented me from even doing a cambré forward. The pulling on my sitz bone was terrible.
She gave me a handout about a new modified method for trigger point release called “Ice and Stretch” by Mary Psaromatis, DC.
Tight hamstrings are very prone to injury and we must be careful to approach them with an intelligent plan. I caution my students to avoid static stretches as the brain will invariably think the muscle is under attack and resist. Dynamic stretches are best– simply put: stretches that move. For example, it you lie on your back with one leg up proceed to bend and stretch it easily. You will find that you will gain some mobility in a productive manner.
Refer to the video below in case you missed it!
Some people have hamstrings that quiver or shake when stretched.
If you are one of those people, then you have found most other stretches DO NOT help you! I tried the “Ice and Stretch” method with a dancer who suffered this frustration. In general, this dancer was very flexible but her body had a built-in muscle reflex to shake when her hamstrings were stretched. Since I am not a doctor, but a ballet teacher working from experience only– I do not recall the name of the reflex. Just know that it is your brain telling the muscle that it is under attack. Once you can “fool” or distract your brain from sending those signals, you will get results.
When Dr. Travell used the technique on her patients, she used an ice spray which is no longer available. My physical therapist told me to take an ice cube, put in a small ziplock and cut open a corner. If you use the pointed end of the ice cube, you will achieve the same result.
A key to the success is warming the muscle first and then icing. For more details please view Mary Psaromatis, DC full pdf here.
Rational for Icing When properly applied, icing causes a sudden drop in skin temperature that creates a continuous alarm signal to the spinal cord, which has an inhibitory effect on local pain signals, preventing them from reaching the brain. This inhibits the protective spasming of the muscle, allowing the trigger points to be stretched. 1
For more information check the pdf link above. I have found it to be very effective for myself and students!
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Comment below if you have any questions. Do you have uncooperative hamstrings?
1 Simons MD, David, Janet Travell MD, and Lois Simons PT. Travell and Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual. 2 vols. 2nd Ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins, 1999.