Tight Hip Flexors and What To Do About it

Did you know that your psoas (pronounced so-az) is one of the longest and strongest muscles in your body?  It enables us to sit or stand.  To be able to walk, reach, bend or twist.

In this post, I”m not going to bog you down with all the biomechanics of the human body, but one thing you need to know when it comes to your psoas, is that like other muscles in your body, there are other muscles that work with it to allow you to move in all different ways and muscles that must relax when the psoas contracts if everything is going to work well.

I often have people contact me that are complaining of tight hip flexors, lower back pain or that have what is referred to as hyper-lordotic posture – that is a really ‘arched’ lower back with belly and butt both ‘sticking’ out as in the image above.

This can even give the illusion of a ‘fat’ stomach on individuals that are quite lean and can definitely cause pain in the hips, lower back and in the front of the upper thigh (feeling light tight quads especially).   Some of the issues that contribute to this posture can also end up causing knee and shoulder pain as well because our whole body functions as one unit – not as a series of individual parts.

You can see in the image, that the psoas originates in at the bottom of your thoracic spine and your entire lumbar spine (lower back) and inserts at the top of your femur (thigh bone).

If your psoas is tight or conversely, is too weak, this can cause lower back pain.  I’m going to concentrate in this article on a tight psoas muscle, with a combo of stretches and releases and some strengthening (or activation) as well.  One important thing to remember is that you will also need to make sure you are activating your glute (butt) muscles as well if you want to improve your hip flexor pain or tightness.  I’ll also discuss this below

There are also lots of other muscles that can be causing the pain described above, but everyone can benefit from doing the following rehab and prehab exercises.

Firstly you’ll need one of the balls at right and a foam roller The ball must be small and quite firm – not at all squishy.  

You’re going to find 3 spots in your abdomen.  The first is about 2-3cm outside your belly button, the second is a few cm above that and the third is 2-3 cm below that first point.  Actually you’ll find 6 spots, because you’ll find the same spots on the other side of your belly button.

Once you’ve found those 6 spots, you’ll lay face-down on your ball and roll those spots out.  The key is to relax into it. Deep breaths – especially out.  You can hold in sorer spots, roll gently back and forth over them and try to get as deep as you can.    Experience massage therapists can also do this for you, but if you’re on your own, the ball is your best plan of attack as you won’t be able to palpate deep enough with your own hands.

With the foam roller, you’ll again lay face-down on the roller and roll out the whole front of your hip and top of quadricep (thigh). Right around the area you commonly refer to as your hip flexors.

I’d recommend doing both of these massage/releases several times per day if you have pain and continue daily for as long as you can – as a preventative option.

 

         

It can be really hard to stretch your hip area simply because your anatomy doesn’t allow you too much movement in the directions required.  And whether static stretching actually helps that much is controversial.  But to stretch the area, the best option is as above.   

If you’re on your own, lay on a bench that is high enough that your foot can hang down without touching the ground.  Pull your other leg in tight and let your leg hang while relaxing and breathing out slowly.

Slowly raise your stretched leg between stretches and hold up for 10-20 seconds before relaxing into the stretch again.

If you have a partner, which is best, have them apply downward pressure to your hanging leg while you try to lift it. Hold for about 10 seconds then relax and stretch again.  Keep pulling your other leg into your chest at the same time.  Repeat for 5-10 reps on each leg.  Alternating between holding the effort and relaxing into the stretch.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, its also important to strengthen your glutes.  I’ll discuss that in my next article, but exercises like Romanian Deadlifts, KB swings, single leg RDL’s, hip thrusters and hip bridges should be undertaken.

If you’d like help with any of this, please contact me at jo@fitterfaster.net.au 

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