What Exactly Are Tight Hip Flexors?
First, help your clients understand what the hip flexors are, what they do, and how you know when they’re tight. The term hip flexors refers to a group of muscles in and around the hips that help move the legs and the trunk together, as when you lift your leg up, bending at the hip.
The Hip Flexor Muscle Group
The hip flexor includes:
- The iliopsoas, which is actually two muscles, the psoas and the iliacus,
- The tensor fasciae latae,
- The rectus femoris,
- And the sartorius.
Together these muscles produce flexion, the movement and tightening of muscles that allows for flexing of the hip joint. They also help to stabilize the spine.
Signs You Have Tight Hip Flexors
The obvious sign, of course, is that these muscles just feel tight. You try to stretch them and they don’t move much. But there are other signs too. Tight hip flexor muscles can impact several other areas of your body, so you might have:
- Tightness or an ache in your lower back, especially when standing.
- Poor posture and difficulty standing up straight.
- Neck tightness and pain.
- Pain in the glutes.
You can also do a test to evaluate tightness. Lying on your back on a table or bench, pull one knee up toward your chest and hold it there. Let the other leg relax downward over the edge of the table. It helps here to have someone hold that leg for you so you can do it slowly.
If your hip flexors are fine you should be able to fully extend the thigh so its parallel to the floor and bend the knee to 90 degrees without the thigh rising up. Any difficulty with these movements indicates tight hip flexor muscles.
What Causes Hip Tightness?
For most people, the biggest cause of tightness is what we do all day long: sitting for too long is a major culprit in tightening the hip flexors. When you sit all day at a desk, the iliopsoas, in particular, shortens, making the flexors tight.
Some athletes are also more prone to tightness. Runners use the hip flexors, especially the iliopsoas, to lift the leg up with each stride. This repeated shortening of the muscle isn’t compensated for by a lengthening movement. Runners often end up with tight hip flexors for this reason.
Having a weak core can also be an issue that contributes to tight hip flexors. Because these muscles are connected to and stabilize the spine, they often take over when the core is not strong. This can lead to tightening and pain.
Stretches to Loosen up Tight Hip Flexors