Why you need healthy hip flexors

Why you need healthy hip flexors

Maybe you first noticed it when you discovered your stride is not as long as it used to be.  Or bending over to pick something up from the floor has become a major event.  If this is the case, there is a good chance your hip flexors are not as healthy as they once were.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re an athlete or not, strong, healthy hip flexors are vital to everyone.

A major factor contributing to this problem is the time many of us spend sitting each day.  The more we sit, the more likely we will develop tight hips. From truck drivers to office workers, tight hip flexors are all too common in today’s society.   When we don’t take the time to regularly stretch and keep more active, sitting for long periods on a chair or couch can lead to shortening of your hip flexors.

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Our hip problems don’t stop there.  According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, hip replacements are on the rise in the United States, peaking amongst adults in early middle age.

What are hip flexors?

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that enable you to bring your knees up towards the trunk of your body.  There are several muscles that help with this movement but two primary muscles are your iliacus and psoas major.  This duo comes together to form the extremely strong ilipsoas tendon which attaches your hip flexor muscles to your thigh bone.  These same muscles of the hip flexor are also responsible for keeping your hips and lower back strong, flexible, and properly aligned. 

Functions of the hip flexor

The main function of the hip flexor is to help your hip joints move properly in their full range.  They help you draw your leg to your torso and also help you move your legs from side to side and backwards.  The hip flexor is the muscle group that connects your legs to your torso and lower body allowing your legs to move in conjunction with your torso.  They also serve to stabilize your hips and lower body, keeping the joints of your pelvis and lumbar spine strong.

Why does sitting too long cause problems with our hip flexors?

When we have frequent, prolonged amounts of time spent in inactivity such as sitting, our muscles can get tight as a result of the restricted movement.  When we are seated at a desk, our hips are in a bent, or flexed position.  This puts the muscles on the front of the hip (hip flexors) in a shortened position, and the muscles on the back of the hip (glutes) in a lengthened position.  Over time, this can result in muscle imbalances with the shortened muscles becoming “tight” and the lengthened muscles becoming weak.  That’s why many people have developed poor posture with forward rounded shoulders and underdeveloped glutes – prolonged, frequent sitting and not stretching out their hip flexors. 

What happens when we have poor hip flexor health?

If the hip flexors become tight, stiff or shorten, you may suffer from lower back and hip pain.  You may also experience a limited range of motion in the hips and back resulting in the inability to take long strides or being able to walk from side to side very well.

Since your hip flexor is a major stabilizer of the lower body, when they become weak, you may develop poor balance and posture. Other problems of having poor hip flexor health are issues with your hip joints and frequent misalignments in your lumbar spine.  Your ability to stand or walk for long periods of time may be affected along with gait problems. 

How to keep your hip flexors healthy

Preventing tightness within your hip flexors can be done but with diligence.  The key is to work at keeping your hip flexors healthy everyday by making important lifestyle changes.  This can make a world of difference in keeping and maintaining your range of motion in your hips before it’s too late.

Here are steps you must do regularly to have healthy hip flexors and to avoid the consequences of poor hip flexor health:

·       Maintain proper posture even while seated.  Make a mental note of your posture several times a day to make sure you are not slumping forward, particularly when typing at a computer.

·       Practice yoga, sit ups and leg lifts every day.  The key is to strengthen your hip flexors and these moves are very effective for keeping those muscles from becoming tight and weak.

·       A great exercise move if possible, is to perform leg lifts while dangling from a pull up bar.  Be sure to keep your spine straight to prevent injuring your back. 

·       Each day, stretch your hip flexors to keep them long, loose and supple.  Stretches such as butterfly stretches, and the Pigeon Pose from yoga are all good ways to stretch these vital muscles. 

·       Click on this link for other excellent stretches for keeping your hip flexors healthy and strong.