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Stretches for muscles in the legs

Why do my muscles become tight?

As you are growing, your body may go through periods of rapid growth. These can be known as ‘growth spurts’. This is when the bones grow at a faster rate than the muscles can stretch.

Why does a tight muscle sometimes cause pain?

If a particular muscle group becomes tight this may result in the joint above or below becoming painful. This is usually because the tight muscle may cause a slightly altered alignment of the joint.

How can I stop my muscles from being tight?

You can do simple daily stretches, and over the course of a few weeks the muscle will gradually regain its normal length.

What muscles become tight?

The most common muscles for becoming tight are in the thigh and calf. These are the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, gastrocnemius and soleus.

How often do I need to do the stretches?

We recommend that you do the stretches at least 3 times a day, evenly spaced out throughout the day. Each stretch should be held for 20 seconds and repeated 5 times. You should only feel a comfortable stretch and it should not be painful to do. If you are feeling pain with exercises please seek advice from a medical professional.

What stretches do I need to do?

Hamstrings

Lie flat on your back. Tighten your lower stomach muscles (to keep your back in the correct position). Bend your hip to 90 degrees and hold onto your leg. Then straighten your leg as much as possible until you feel a stretch at the back of your thigh.

Illustration of person laid down on the floor with one leg raised with their hands behind their knee

Hold for 20 seconds

Repeat 5 times

Quadriceps

Lie flat on your stomach and bend one knee. Hold onto your ankle or use a towel around the ankle to pull your foot towards your bottom, until you feel a stretch at the front on your thigh. Squeeze your bottom muscles throughout the stretch to help push your hips into the bed or floor.

Illustration of person laid down on their front with one leg bent with a towel around their ankle pulling to their bottom

Hold for 20 seconds

Repeat 5 times

Calf muscles

Stand in a walking position facing a wall with the leg to be stretched straight behind you and the other leg bent in front of you. Make sure you have an arch in the back foot and keep the heel on the floor.

With your hands on the wall lean forwards and feel a stretch in the calf of the straight leg.

Person stood with hands flat on a wall with one leg behind them, straight, and the other in front bent at the knee

Hold for 20 seconds

Repeat 5 times on both side.


Stand facing a wall in a walking position with the leg to be stretched behind you. Bend the  back leg and let the weight of your body stretch your calf without lifting the heel off the floor. Make sure you keep an arch on the inside of your foot throughout.

Person stood with hands flat on a wall with one leg behind them, bent a little, and the other in front bent at the knee

Hold for 20 seconds

Repeat 5 times on both sides.

Hip flexors

In half-kneeling with the leg to be stretched at the back. Tuck your bottom under and push your hips forwards until you feel a stretch in the front of the back leg.

Illustration of person down on one knee, with their other foot on the floor so their knee is at a right angle to their hip

Hold for 20 seconds.

Repeat 5 times.

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PT8

Resource Type: Article

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