With the amount of sitting most of us have to do on a daily basis, it’s common for hip and lower back muscles to get tight as they remain in a shortened position over extended periods of time.
Hip flexor muscles attach the hip joints to the top of the femur and the inside of the knee, allowing flexibility of the upper leg. When we sit for long periods of time, these muscles tighten, causing stiffness and pain. Stretching the hip flexor can loosen up these muscles to take some strain off the lower back and restore a normal range of motion.
Often tight hip flexors manifest in pain elsewhere in the body such as the lower back and hamstrings. In addition to pain, tight hip flexors can inhibit athletic endeavors, fat loss efforts, and result in loss of mobility over time.
We don’t pay a lot of attention to hip flexors because they’re buried deep in the body and aren’t regularly activated through conscious effort. Tight hip flexors don’t top the list of known sports injuries either, but that doesn’t make them any less debilitating. Luckily, the right hip flexor stretch can loosen them right up into their natural state.
What are Hip Flexors?
Hip flexors are a group of hip muscles that connect the lumbar spine, pelvis, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, and knees. They’re responsible for the mobility of the lower extremities, as well as core stability and balance. They also allow you to raise your knee upward.
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The muscle group includes:
- liopsoas – (iliac and psoas muscles grouped together) work to flex the hip
- Rectus femoris – one of the quadriceps at the front of the thigh
- Sartorius – attaches from the top of the large pelvic bone (ilium) at the iliac crest to the top of the tibia (shin bone)
- Tensor fasciae latae – a muscle located at the outside front of the hip which flexes and abducts the thigh (moves it away from the body)
- Pectineus – in the front of the pelvic bone between the iliopsoas and adductor muscles (those that move the leg in toward the body)
- Gracilis – a thin muscle that runs the length of the inner thigh, attaching the pubic bone to the top of the tibia
- Longus, brevis, and magnus adductors – a group of muscles of the inner thigh (along with the pectineus and gracilis) that move the femur in toward the middle of the body
- Gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus – muscles of the upper legs and buttocks that attach the hips to the back above and the legs below.
The hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) attach the pelvis to the leg bones.
Why You Should Stretch Your Hip Flexors
You may not be able to see your hip flexors, but you sure can feel them in your lower body if they’re not working properly. A good physical therapist or personal trainer will show you how to unlock your hip flexors, but not everyone has the time or need for a professional. These tips should help close that gap without taking up a lot of time.