What are the hip flexor muscles?
The hip flexor muscles are responsible for raising the thigh toward the trunk – i.e. hip flexion. They are active in stepping forward when walking or climbing stairs. They are also important in the kicking motion. This muscle group includes the Psoas Major, Psoas Minor and Iliacus muscles. They are often referred to as the Iliopsoas muscles and are generally located in the front of the lower spine, pelvis and hip. Other muscles of the thigh also assist in hip flexion.
Why stretch the hip flexors?
Tight hip flexors will limit hip extension, which means a normal walking gait is hindered. When they are tight the hip flexors will tilt the pelvis forward and place excessive stress on the spine. A forward tilting pelvis gives you an excessive arch in your low back. This excessive arching and added compression on the spine are significant contributors to poor spinal mechanics and back pain. The hip flexors are shortened when we sit. Hence, prolonged sitting causes tight hip flexors. read more…
Why Stretch the hip abductor muscles?
The hip abductor muscles are the group of muscles responsible for moving the hip away from the midline of the body. These include the Gluteus muscles, which make up your buttocks. Also included in the abductor group is the priformis, which is one of four deep rotator muscles of the hip. Because of their location, these muscles play an important role in stabilizing the pelvis when standing. This is also crucial for good back mechanics. It is important to note that tight hip abductors will adversely affect your low back function and your gait (i.e. your walking and running).
The abductors oppose the adductors. Balance between the two groups of muscles is essential. See How to Stretch the Adductors here.
How to stretch your hip abductors.
- Lie on your back with legs extended.
- Bring the right knee toward your chest.
- Your thigh should be about 90 degrees to your trunk.
- Keep the right knee bent and left leg extended.
- Place your left hand on the outside of the right knee.
- Pull your right knee towards the midline of the body, only far enough to feel a gentle stretch.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat same for other side.
- Stretch each side 3 times.
You should feel this stretch in the buttocks or outside of the hip. If there is any discomfort in the front of, or deep within, the hip see modified stretch below.
For both these stretches, your back and pelvis should remain flat on the ground or bed.
Don’t pull hard toward the chest. The focus is on gently bringing the thigh across the mid line of your body.
Modified Stretch Position
- Bring your right knee toward the chest.
- Place the left hand on your right shin and the right hand on the outside of the knee.
- Pull your shin gently toward your chest and push thigh gently, with your right hand, toward the midline of your body.
- Do not lift your hips or pelvis from ground.
- You should feel this stretch in the buttocks or on the outside of the hip.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat same for the other side.
- Stretch each side 3 times.
Suggestions made in this publication are no substitute for medical advice. If you have any pain or difficulty performing the described stretches, seek advice from your appropriate health professional.
About the Author
Domenic Lopez B.Sc., Certified Exercise Physiologist and licensed Massage Therapist, is owner and operator of Healthy Moves, a private practice where massage therapy and movement education help you achieve better living.
Stretching reduces aches and pains of daily living.
Strength training and cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise are essential to maintain the required strength and stamina for daily living. However, stretching and flexibility exercises will reduce the stress and strain on your body that happens due to the loss of flexibility suffered with aging.
Good flexibility is desirable for optimal movement of your body parts. You improve circulation to the muscles when you decrease excessive muscle tension. More blood flow to the muscles means they receive more oxygen and nutrition. Better circulation of blood also means better waste removal. Hence, quicker removal of lactic acid and other byproducts. Reducing muscle tension and increasing circulation to the muscles also increases their suppleness. Your muscles will better absorb the shock and stress of every day movements, as well as athletic activity, when they are more supple. read more…
Stretch Your Hamstring Muscles to Decrease Knee Pain and Back Pain.
The hamstrings are the muscles on the back of the thigh. The three hamstring muscles are responsible for bending at the knee or flexing the knee. Hamstring tears are often the reason you see sprinters pulling up in a race. The hamstrings attach to the part of the pelvic bone which you sit on. When tight, they can tilt the pelvis backward, flattening the lower back. This can adversely affect the mechanics of the back and pelvis, which can strain your spine and hips. Like the quadriceps, tight hamstrings are often contributing factors of low back pain as well as knee pain.
How to Stretch the Hamstring Muscles
Here is how to start with a proper ergonomic set up.
Is your chair’s height adjustable?
- Your feet should be flat on the floor.
- The knees should be slightly lower than the hips.
- Do not compromise your correct seating position to achieve the correct height of the monitor and keyboard (see below for monitor positioning).
Do you have an adequate back rest with lumbar support? read more…
Why should you stretch your Quadriceps muscles?
The Quadriceps are the muscles in the front of the thigh. They are commonly referred to as the quads. These muscles are responsible for extending the knee, when stepping forward, kicking and climbing stairs. They get a lot of use and deserve a good stretch.
Tight Quadriceps are a common cause of knee pain. Keeping the Quadriceps muscles flexible helps decrease the wear and tear on the knee cap and knee joints in general. Flexible Quadriceps are more elastic. This increased elasticity decreases the compressive forces on the knee joints. Less compression means less rubbing and wearing away of your joint surfaces. Hence, less pain due to arthritis or inflammation of your knee joints.
One of the quadriceps muscles (the rectus femoris) also functions as a hip flexor. It attaches to the front aspect of the pelvic bone. When tight, it can tilt the pelvis forward.
This causes an increased lower back arch (lordosis). This increased lordosis is a common contributor to low back pain.
In summary, we have a group of muscles that when tense or tight can cause pain in the knee and the back.