Our hip flexors muscles are one of those muscles that always seems to get the blame for something wrong. Hip pain and back pain are commonly attributed to tight hip flexors. But are those ever-important muscles in the hip always the naughty child or could it be that they are in fact the victims that are simply misunderstood?
Speaking from childhood experience, always being the first suspect when something goes wrong is no fun. Unfortunately the hip flexor muscles must be all too familiar with that feeling. Don’t get me wrong, there are many times when tight hip flexor muscles are indeed the cause of problems and need to be addressed. But they are also commonly the target of stretching without a proper investigation into a) if they are actually tight and b) if they are weak and need strengthening exercises instead or in combination!
The anatomical location of the single joint hip flexor muscles makes them a prime target. They connect multiple levels of the lower back vertebrae (bones) to the upper thighbone. These connections are what gets them in trouble. You see, if you experience lower back or hip pain then the hip flexor could be too tight and “compress” the lower back or the hip area creating pain. While this can very well be the case, a weakness in any of the other muscles surrounding the hip and lower back area may also cause the hip flexors to “tighten” to try and create stability in the area.
When performed correctly, exercises aimed at improving flexibility should make a difference to both the length and the “tension” you feel in a muscle. If you ever feel as though you are constantly stretching out your hip flexors and they still feel tight, this is most likely that they are in fact compensating for other weaknesses rather than simply tight. If this is the case, addressing the strength and balance of the other lumbo-pelvic muscles is necessary before you are likely to feel much change.
Of course the hip flexors can also be weak, and commonly are. The more sedentary we are, the more likely they are to be weak. In addition, conditions such as osteoarthritis of the hip can also lead to hip flexor weakness. Many people experience the same “stiffness” or “tight” feeling in the hip flexor when the muscles are weak, which is often why so many people try to stretch them out at first.
Rather than using a recipe that may have worked for some people, it is much better to find out what your body needs are. There is a true saying in healthcare; “test don’t guess” and this certainly applies to the hip flexor muscles. Stay tuned for some short tip Facebook videos showing you how to test the hip flexors to see if they are tight, weak or both.