Something we see too often at the ATL are tight hip flexors. Your hip flexors are a group of muscles surrounding your hip that allow you to lift your knees and bend at the waist. They are also responsible for moving your legs from side to side and front to back, as well as helping to stabilize your lower body.
Pain from tight hip flexors can be felt in the muscles themselves (upper groin region, where the thigh meets the pelvis), but often times it will show up as tightness or discomfort in your lower back or pain surrounding the knee.
The above image gives an example of what tight hips can do to your posture. Because the hip flexors have the inability to stretch and allow your hips to sit evenly from front to back, your spine curves inward, which can result in a mess of problems including back pain, posture issues and knee discomfort.
Two of the primary causes of tight hip flexors are sitting for long periods of time (for example, working long hours at a computer or driving around all day) and over exercising—especially running, hiking or biking. When you are seated for extended periods of time, your knees are bent and your hip muscles are flexed which can cause them to tighten up or become shortened. Then, when you do something athletic, this stiff, tight muscle suddenly gets extended, which has the potential to strain the hip flexor.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to alleviate the tightness in the hips—stretching! Following are 5 simple stretches for the hip flexors that we can all do to correct or prevent any pain and help keep proper alignment in the body. Stretching doesn’t require much effort and it can improve your athletic performance, give you better posture and keep your muscles healthy, flexible & pain-free. Do these stretches often —daily is best, and do them slowly, using your breath to guide you a little deeper. Remember, quality over quantity. These stretches are so simple you can even do them while watching TV, so give them a try—you may be surprised just how tight your hips really are!
- Sit with your right knee bent and your left leg extended behind you. Pull the right heel in toward your left hip, making sure your left hip is always pointing down toward the mat.
- Rest your hands on your hips, or walk your hands out in front of you, resting your torso over your right knee. Hold here, breathing into any areas of tightness and tension.
- Repeat this pose with the left knee bent.
• Lying flat on your back, bend both knees and hold the outside edges of your flexed feet with your hands. Keep your arms on the outsides of your legs.
• Gently press both knees towards the floor while also pressing your lower back down.
• Sit & bend both knees, bringing your feet together. Use your leg muscles to press your knees down toward the floor while also gently ! pressing down with your arms.
• Lengthen your spine, drawing your belly button inward. Relax your shoulders and gaze either in front of you and slowly fold forward, drawing your torso toward your legs. Try and keep your spine straight.
KNEELING HIP FLEXOR
- Fold up a towel and place it about eight inches away from a wall. Kneel down and place your left knee on the towel and your toes against the wall.
- Place your right foot on the ground in front of you, and lower your hips down until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Make sure your right knee is directly above your ankle.
- Keep your hands on your front knee to help keep your torso straight. Stay here for at least five breaths. Then slowly release and do this stretch on the other side.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Bend your knees and lower your hips down, keeping your heels on the ground.
- Bring your palms together at the center of your chest and press outward with your elbows against the inside of your knees to open your hips even further. Work on shifting weight into your heels and lengthening the crown of your head up toward the ceiling.