Learn about the muscles that make up the hip flexors, how they can become injured and treatment and exercises to release tight hip flexors and psoas.
What Are Hip Flexors?
The hip flexors are a group of muscles that are located on the front top part of the thigh in the pelvic area.
They are responsible for extension and flexion of the hips and bending the knees to the hips, and they also stabilise the posterior pelvic muscles. We use our hip flexors every time we take a step.
The hip flexors are made up of:
The main hip flexor is the iliopsoas (pronounced illy-o-so-as), which is made up of two parts – the psoas muscle that starts at the lumbar spine, and the iliacus that starts from the inside of the pelvis.
The rectus femoris, which is a part of the quadriceps. The quadriceps run down from the hip joint to the knee joint.
Common Cause of Hip Flexor Tightness and Injuries
Sitting too long or all day can shorten and tighten these muscles, leading to discomfort or injury. If the muscles are shortened for extended periods they might resist load or not work as they should during certain movements. If you have a job that requires you to sit for long hours there are some stretches recommended below that can help to lengthen and strengthen this muscle group. You might also take regular walk or stretch breaks to help prevent hip flexors shortening over time.
While sitting is not good for the hip flexors, you can also injure them while being physically active. A hip flexor injury can occur because of over stretching and overuse, which may eventually limit your movement.
You can also strain or get a tear in these muscles during activity such as sports or dancing.
The symptoms of a strain include:
A sharp pain in the hip or pelvic area
Cramping in upper leg muscles
Stiffness or tightness after sitting
A tugging sensation in the upper groin
Difficulty jumping, sprinting, or kicking
Tenderness or pain when walking up the stairs
Poor posture, walking habits, general overuse, and sometimes arthritis can also cause pain in the hip flexors. Symptoms associated with a hip flexor strain can range from mild to severe and can impact your mobility.
If you suspect a hip flexor injury or strain then the best solution is to rest and seek treatment with a qualified physiotherapist or osteopath.
Treatment for Tight or Injured Hip Flexors
There are also some things you can so at home that can help reduce hip flexor strain symptoms.
Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 10- to 15-minute time increments.
Alternate ice packs with a heat application starting at about 72 hours after the initial injury. A hot shower can have a similar effect in reducing muscle tightness.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce inflammation, however, unless directed by your doctor, you shouldn’t take these medicines for longer than 10 days.
Rest and avoid activities that will overuse your hip flexors for 10 to 14 days after injury (or longer if directed by your doctor).
Exercises for Tight Hip Flexors
Gentle stretching exercises can help reduce hip flexor muscle tension and prevent future injury.
Here are some gentle stretches to begin to lengthen and strengthen the hip flexors.
It can help to reduce the risk for hip flexor strain if you apply heat and warm up your muscles with a gentle walk for several minutes before stretching.
Remember - If your hip flexor strain feels severe or that it may be a torn muscle, seek professional help from a doctor or physical therapist and rest instead of stretching.
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