What is the Hip Flexor?
The psoas muscle, also known as the hip flexors are an important part of the body. These muscles are on each side of the body and are the primary connectors of the torso and legs, which they help to support your spine and affect your posture. They start by connecting at the 12th thoracic vertebrae through to the 5th lumbar vertebrae through your pelvis and finally attach to your femurs. These are the only muscles that connect your legs to your torso. The hip flexor muscle primary movement is hip flexion, weak psoas muscles can cause many of the surrounding muscles to compensate and become overused. That is why a tight or overstretched hip flexor muscle could be the cause of many or your aches and pains, including low back and pelvic pain.
What happens when the Hip Flexor gets tight?
Prolonged sitting and activities like jogging and cycling can lead to tight hip flexors and muscle imbalances which contribute to low back pain. When the hip flexors are tight they create an anterior pull on the pelvis known as an anterior pelvic tilt. This alters posture and also inhibits, or turns off, the opposing muscle group, the gluteus maximus, leading to muscle imbalances. When one muscle contracts, the antagonist must relax in order to allow slack for the contracting muscle to move. Microspasms or trigger points often develop in the overused/tight muscles like the hip flexors. Releasing the trigger points before stretching a tight muscle can lead to greater improvements in range of motion.
8 Tips for keeping your Hip Flexor strong and healthy
Exercise, sitting in your favorite chair, wearing shoes, and even unhealed physical and emotional injuries can cause imbalance in your hip flexor muscles. Getting things back in balance will give you a greater range of motion and relief from pain. Plus, you feel more grounded and relaxed!
Here are some tips for getting things back in balance:
Avoid sitting for extended periods.
If you must sit for work or other reasons, sit with good posture and be sure your hips are level or slightly higher than your knees. Avoid bucket seats and chairs without support for your low back. Try to get up and move around every hour.
Add support to your car seat.
Use a rolled up towel underneath your sit bones and/ or behind your lumbar spine to keep the psoas and hip sockets released. If you are traveling long distances, stop every 3 hours to stretch and walk around for 10 minutes.
Lay off extreme exercise routines.
I don’t mean completely or forever. But, if you are a power walker, distance runner or sprinter, or even if you do a lot of sit-ups, you may want to alternate your workouts.
Try Resistance Flexibility exercises. Resistance Flexibility exercises can do wonders for your fascia.
To strengthen your hip flexor, lay on your back with your hips abutting the wall next to a door frame. Raise one leg straight so that it is against the wall. (Your other leg will extend through the door way.) Bend your extended leg and using your hands to slow down the movement and create resistance, bring your bent knee toward your chest.
Do this while also pressing your raised leg into the wall. Then reverse the motion of your bent leg. As you straighten it, continue to create resistance using your hands to push your leg out as your leg resists. After you have completed this exercise, stretch your psoas. Learn how to stretch your hip flexors!
Take constructive rest.
The Constructive Rest Position (CRP) can relieve low back, pelvic and hip tension while it allows your entire body to come into neutral. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor hip-width apart and parallel to each other.Place your heels a comfortable distance from your buttocks – or about 16 inches away. Do not push your low back into the floor or tuck your pelvis. Rest your arms over your belly. Let gravity do the work. Doing this for 10 to 20 minutes every day will release tension in your hip flexor muscles and help to reestablish the neuro-biological rhythms that calm and refresh.
Pay attention to your pelvis!
The length of the hip flexor determines whether or not your pelvis is free to move.To tell whether your hip flexor muscles are tight or overstretched, stand sideways by a mirror (or even better, have a friend take a photo of you from the side). Note the position of your pelvis. If you were to draw a line along your pelvis from back to front, that line should be pretty straight.
If the line tilts downward, your pelvis is anteriorly rotated or moving toward the front of your body. This means that your hip flexor muscles may be short and tight. If the line runs upward, your pelvis is posteriorly tilted toward the back of your body. This means that your hip flexor muscles may be overstretched and weak.
Release stress and past traumas.
We store stress in our bodies. Tension in the hips is common and it’s usually not just caused by lifestyle, age and physical events, such as injuries or accidents, but also due to mental stress and unhealed traumas. Releasing stress daily can help keep your hip flexors healthy. Take a leisurely walk. Soak in a bath with Epsom salts. Acknowledge your emotions, express and release them. Divine Love is a great way to heal from past traumas. Finally, get out and do something pleasurable every day!
Get a professional massage.
Getting a massage from a seasoned practitioner is another tip that can help relieve a tight hip flexor muscle. Understand that this work is not the most comfortable, but can be of great benefit. In fact, getting myofascial release on a regular basis helps to keep your hip flexor, and all of your muscles, fluid. Assisted stretching (as with a Resistance Flexibility trainer) and yoga are also excellent ways to restore balance to your hip flexor. Schedule your first massage with Jacob, an experienced licensed massage therapist and see how great you feel!