Do you spend long hours sitting behind a desk each day and do you frequently (or constantly) suffer from low back pain? The cause may be found, not in your back itself, but a little further down… in your hip flexors!
Approximately 80% of adults experience low back pain. One of the most common causes is related to tight hip flexors. As a matter of fact, injury expert Rick Kaselj, tight hip flexors aren’t just a common cause of back pain but many other health issues as well. This includes joint pain, trouble sleeping, circulatory issues and a weakened immune system.
The hip flexor, more formally called the iliopsoas, has two parts. One part originates on the lower back or lumbar spine and inserts in the inner thigh the other part originates off of the iliac crest on the pelvis and also inserts in the inner thigh area.
The hip flexors perform the motion of bringing the thigh upward, for instance when you walk up the stairs or step over something. When we sit for long periods of time and do activities like cycling and running we have a lot of hip flexion. This tightens up the iliopsoas, also known as tight hip flexors.
Wondering whether or not you have tight hip flexors? If they are really tight you probably don’t have to guess. However, if you are uncertain, there’s a simple test you can do to find out:
How tight hip flexors can cause low back pain
When your hip flexors become tight they create what’s called an ‘anterior pull’ on the pelvis. This causes the pelvis to tilt forward, also known as an anterior pelvic tilt.
Over time this can create muscle imbalances. This is because tight muscles actually inhibit or turn off the opposing muscle group. In this case of the hip flexors the opposing muscle is the gluteus maximus (your butt). These muscle imbalances and the bad posture (anterior pelvic tilt) which is usually the results from them, are what can contribute to low back pain.
How to fix low back pain caused by hip flexors
One of the first steps in fixing low back pain causes by tight hip flexors is, as you probably guessed, to lengthen the hip flexor muscle.
Many times we attempt to do that with static stretching. However if this muscle has been shortened for long periods of time, static stretching may not be effective. This is because the muscle often develops micro spasms. So you might need to relax these micro spasms before the static stretching is effective.
One way to do that is through the use of a medicine ball (or a soccer ball). To release the hip flexor, begin in a prone position on the elbows and place your body just over the medicine ball so it’s just on the inside of the iliac crest. In this position start to shift your weight up on the ball. Your feet can be wider than shoulder-width apart for balance.
Now you can adjust the tension by putting more or less weight onto the resting leg (your right leg if you’re stretching your left hip flexor). Turn the toe out and gently roll towards the thigh and back, as well as rolling to the left or right to find the trigger point. Once you locate a trigger point – which is an area that either doesn’t conform to the medicine ball or has a burning sensation – spend about 30 to 90 seconds on that spot to release the tightness around that point.
After releasing the hip flexor using the exercise mentioned above, static stretching will be more effective.
Looking for a quick way to relax your tight hip flexors? Try this simple exercise.
If you constantly suffer from chronically tight hip flexors you might want to try Rick Kaselj’s program ‘Unlock Your Hip Flexors‘. It’s a complete step-by-step program that teaches you a simple 10 minute routine you can easily do at home to release the tension in your psoas muscle.
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Do You Have Tight Hip Flexors? Try This Test
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