I am finally settled into my new space @ Health Coaches on Free St. Still in the Old Port, but best of all, across the street from Arabica Coffee. It’s sort of like my second office. So, here I sit thinking of all the things I have wanted to write about, but have been too busy to do so.
Thinking about hip flexors lately. There is rarely a person that I work on that does not have tight hip flexors (or Tensor Fasciae Latae – TFL – in muscle speak). These muscles assist in hip flexion (such as when you lift your thigh up when you are biking, walking or running).
They also tend to get tight on people who sit a lot. While sitting, the hip flexors are in a shortened position. If one sits for long periods, the hip flexors get used to this shortened/tight position.
When hip flexors are really tight, they can limit leg lift. One might not notice this reduced range of motion at first. However, you will notice the tightness when you feel the discomfort/pain when they get massaged.
There are a few things you can do to keep these important muscles from getting too tight. One is to stretch them regularly. The best stretch that I have found, is one that I learned from Erica Napuli of Evolution Fitness (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Start by standing facing steps or a bench/chair. Bend your right knee and place your right foot onto the bench (or a higher or lower object depending on your flexibility). Angle inwards the toes of your left foot, that is still on the floor. Then raise your arms above your head and arch back, pushing your hips forward to give your left hip flexor a stretch. Repeat on other side. If you don’t feel a stretch doing this try a higher step, or maybe they just aren’t that tight on you. Lucky you.
Another great way to reduce tightness in your hip flexors is to do self massage with a tennis ball. Find your hip flexors. They are located on the outer front of your “hip”. Between where you might feel your hip bone and where you might imagine that your quads start.
Find a tennis ball. This might involve wrestling one from the jaws of your fun loving dog. Wipe off the doggie slobber and place it between your hip flexor and the wall or floor. It might take some trial and error to find the exact tight spot, but when you do find it, keep the pressure on the tennis ball and move it back and forth gently over the tight hip flexor.
The duration of this “massage’ depends on your tightness, but shouldn’t be longer than a few minutes. Doing this regularly will keep those pesky hip flexor from ever causing you a problem.
If left untreated, tightness in your hip flexors not only limit range of motion at the hip – but the tightness can move down into your Illiotibial Band (ITB) of the outer thigh, down to your outer knee (the ITB attaches to the TFL)….causing pain and discomfort. But I’ll save the discussion of the dangers of tight ITBs for another day.