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The hamstrings are a group of muscles in the back of the upper legs. A certified or licensed massage therapist can incorporate techniques in treatment to help your hamstrings become more flexible and functional. Soft tissue massage modalities do not necessarily involve a stretching routine, although your massage therapist may use techniques that incorporate range of motion, and specific passive stretches. Neuromuscular therapy or trigger point therapy can address issues of overcompensation, referral pain or nerve pain, such as with sciatica, which can create discomfort in the hamstrings.
Benefits of Soft Tissue Massage
Massage therapy can help break down adhesions, which are tracts of connective tissue that grow in a random order as a result of the body's attempt to quickly repair and replace damaged tissue. Breaking down adhesions helps collagen, which makes up connective tissue, grow back in its correct direction. If you are an athlete, your hamstrings can be prone to minor tears, which is how adhesions begin; adhesions can also form post-surgically. Until adhesions are broken down, the muscle will overcompensate, which can make it feel like you need to stretch more.
Circulation Helps With Flexibility
Improved blood flow helps your body perform endurance exercises for longer periods, take deeper stretches and endure sudden injuries that stretch the muscles. To put it simply, increased blood flow makes for more intelligent muscles. Swedish massage is excellent for circulation. Long strokes -- known as effleurage -- move blood and lymph. The circulatory system carries oxygen and nutrients to all the tissues of the body, as well as removing carbon dioxide and other metabolic wastes. The deeper the circulation, the more this simple function can perform its profound effects.
Other Types of Massage
Another modality of massage, Thai massage, or Thai-yoga massage, uses passive stretching and incorporates many leg stretches as a large part of typical routine. If you're an athlete or massage enthusiast looking for another approach to get a deep hamstring stretch, seek out a local massage therapist who specializes in this increasingly popular, dynamic massage.
To improve flexibility in your hamstrings, start your morning with a vigorous self-massage to the front and back of your legs. After your morning shower, find a comfortable place to sit with your legs outstretched. With your chosen moisturizer or lotion, perform mild to vigorous strokes with both hands, side by side, one leg at a time. You will begin to feel the increased blood flow. This will allow your hamstrings to take a deeper stretch and recover more quickly from your workout.