No one should feel pain when they walk or run. These activities should be as natural as breathing. In a situation where they are not, your hip flexors are to blame.
The hip flexors are a cluster of muscles that are responsible for two things; lifting your knee towards your chest and bending at the hips. They connect the hips and lower limbs to the torso and are nine in number. These include:
- The iliacus
- The psoas
- The rectus femoris
- The Sartorius
- The tensor Fasciae Latae
- The pectineus
- The adductor longus
- The adductor brevis
- The gracillis
The iliacus and psoas, which are the primary hip flexor muscles, are not separated. They form one muscle and are collectively known as the iliopsoas. The other muscles are in the glutes, quadriceps, and thighs.
These nine muscles, known as the hip flexors, make any movement that affects your hip easy. Walking, bending, twerking, jumping, hopping, and running become affected if the hip flexors get strained.
Types Of Hip Flexor Pain
Hip flexor pain makes movement difficult and occurs following injury to the hips. It is usually common amongst athletes and physically active people who make more use of the flexor muscles. Pain associated with a hip flexor injury occurs at the hip and groin area. There are several causes of hip flexor pain. Some of the major causes are:
- Hip Flexor Strain
The hip flexor strain occurs when you stretch the iliopsoas, the primary hip flexor muscle. The symptoms of this strain are:
- Muscle spasms in the thigh and hip
- Sharp pain in the hip following trauma
- Tender and sore feeling in the upper thighs
- Cramps in the upper area of the leg.
- Hip Tendonitis
It is also known as the flexor tendonitis or the iliopsoas tendonitis. This particular hip flexor injury is common amongst athletes and people who are very active. People who get involved in running, swimming, cycling, and high-intensity workouts usually suffer from this.
Overusing the usually stiff iliopsoas causes it to stretch beyond its limit. When this happens, the iliopsoas stretches the tendon that attaches it to the hip bone, creating a strain. The tendon then swells and becomes bruised.
The symptoms are;
- Feeling of discomfort when stretching the hip muscles
- Pain in the hips that reduce as the person warms up
- Stiffness of the hip muscles in the morning or after a nap or rest.
- Tender and sore feeling at the top of the hip.
There are other causes of hip flexor pain; which usually follows a trauma, such as a fall or a bruise.
Whatever injury your hip flexor has sustained, moving would be painful. Activities like sitting, pulling on socks, tying your shoelaces, or bending down to pick things become painful.
If you don’t treat the injury on time, you can start limping, and your movement becomes limited. It is always better to avoid hip flexor pain by keeping the flexor muscles stretched and straightened. You can achieve this through special stretches and exercises.
Hip Flexor Streches
Prevention is better than cure. A hip flexor strain or tendonitis, and the resulting pain are very uncomfortable. The following stretches would help loosen the tight hip flexor muscles to prevent wear or tear.
This stretch works on the iliopsoas and tensor fasciae Latae.
- Lie down flat on the floor in a horizontal position. Make sure your toes point towards the ceiling.
- Let your left leg stay flat on the floor and bend your right knee until your right foot is flat on the floor.
- Place your hands behind your right knee and pull towards your chest. Make sure that your back, hips, and left leg are resting flat on the floor.
- Hold the position for thirty seconds before changing to your left and repeating the stretch.
Lunge and Spinal Twist Stretch
This stretch works on the iliopsoas and rectus femoris.
- Stand with your feet together
- With your right foot, take a lunge step and maintain the wide stance.
- Bend your right knee and lunge forward. Keep your left leg in a straight line behind you with your toes on the floor and your heels elevated. Doing this will stretch the thigh muscles of your left leg.
- Bend over and put your left hand on the floor.
- Twist your upper body as you extend your right hand towards the ceiling.
- Maintain the position for 30 seconds. Switch to your left and repeat the exercise.
Four Figure Stretch
This stretch works on the iliopsoas, the pectineus, tensor fasciae Latae.
- Lie flat with your back touching the floor. Raise your legs, keeping your feet on the floor and your knees facing the ceiling.
- Cross your right foot over your left quad while bending =your left knee.
- Place your hand on the back of your left leg and pull it towards your chest
- Gently pull until you feel a stretch.
- Maintain the position for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Kneeling Side Bend Stretch
This stretch works on the iliopsoas, pectineus, tensor fasciae latae, rectus femoris, the sartorius, adductor longus, and brevis and the gracillis.
- Take a kneeling position on the floor, keeping your legs together. Your back should be straight and perpendicular to the floor and your core tight.
- Extend your right leg to the side. It should be perpendicular to your body.
- Raise your left arm up and above your head.
- Keep your right arm on your right leg.
- Keeping your hips stationary, bend your torso leaning towards your extended right leg.
- Maintain the position for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
Hip Flexor Exercises
While the hip flexor stretches loose up tight hips, the hip flexor exercises strengthen them. It is necessary to know the difference between keeping your muscles stretched and keeping them strengthened. A stronger hip flexor is less vulnerable to strains and injury. The following exercises would build your hip flexor muscles and make them stronger.
Double Banded Pull-Through
This exercise requires the use of a long resistance band.
- Place a long resistance band behind you. It should be low on the ground.
- Stand in front of the long resistance band with a looped mini resistance band just above your knees. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and your legs slightly stretched to maintain dynamic tension.
- Lean forward at the hips. Pushing your butt back, bend your knees and reach down between your legs to get the long band.
- Keep your back straight and tight as you lean back into a standing position. Drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes as you stand up.
- Repeat the steps for 13 more reps.
High Knees Exercise
This exercise is mostly useful to runners as it helps your hip flexor muscles get used to the range of movement. It also builds up muscle endurance.
- Stand upright with your legs hip-width apart.
- Raise your left knee as high as it can go.
- Maintain the position for thirty to sixty seconds.
- Switch your legs and repeat.
- Do 3 to 4 sets.
You will need two dumbbells for this exercise.
- Stand with your back facing an elevated surface (you can use a chair or a bench).
- Keep your left foot firmly on the floor and place your right foot on the bench keeping the top face down on the bench.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Flex your knees and lower your body into a split squat. Your left knee should form a 90-degree angle, keeping your thigh parallel to the ground.
- Bracing your left heel, return to a standing position.
- Repeat the rep for 15 times.
You will need two dumbbells or Kettlebells for this exercise.
- Stand with one foot 6 inches before the other. Make sure that your feet stand hip-width apart.
- Keep a dumbbell next to both feet. Placing most of your weight on the extended foot, balance on the toes of the foot on the rear. Lift the dumbbells.
- Lunge forward at the hips, pushing your butt backwards and lower the dumbbells to the floor. This exercise is more effective if you keep your shoulders tight and your back flat.
- Return to the beginning position by bracing your front foot.
- Repeat the set for 12 times.
Seated Hip Flexion
This exercise moves the hip flexor muscles through a range of movement that is greater than 90 degrees. It also increases the flexor’s comfortable range of motion.
- Seat on a bench with your backs straight and shoulders tight.
- Slowly raise your right knee towards your chest. Keep your thighs tight and avoid rolling them.
- Keep your knees elevated for 10 seconds before slowly lowering it to the ground.
- Switch legs and repeat. Finish four sets of 10 reps for each leg.
Your hip flexors are one of the essential muscles in your body. If you strain or bruise them, any hip movement becomes limited and painful. Take care of your hip flexors today by regularly stretching and strengthening them.