Ask the Physio … Hip Flexors

Stretching those Hip Flexors

by Sally Harrison from Perfect Form Physiotherapy

The hip flexors, as the name suggests, flex or bend the hip (as when lifting the leg off the ground).

They also have the ability to pull the pelvis forward and arch the back when standing or sitting. They also have a strong role in decelerating hip extension with gait (walking) and running and bringing the leg forward again.

Tightness felt in a muscle can signify dysfunction. The muscle isn’t able to work as designed with a flowing on/off action. We can experience long and tight and short and tight muscles in this area.
Tight and dysfunctional hip flexors can lead to many problems arising throughout the body. Areas that can be directly affected are:

  • Lower back
  • Pelvis
  • Knees

However, there are many other areas of the body are affected more indirectly such as the rib cage, neck, TMJ (jaw), calf and even breathing and digestion!

When we refer to the hip flexors we are often talking about psoas major and minor, iliacus and rectus femoris. Sartorius also plays a role in hip flexion as do the front fibres of the TFL (tensor fascia lata).
This group of muscles can become prone to tightness as a result of:

  • Non-optimal posture (especially forward tilt of the pelvis) with an arched back
  • Sitting for too long (triple flexion) when at work, study, and driving
  • Weaker muscles at the back of the hip, such as the gluts and deep hip rotators (asymetry)
  • Non-optimal contact and function with the feet in the gait cycle – the psoas may not get the opportunity to open well as we walk and therefore stay shortened and tight.
  • Weaker core and trunk control muscles and timing (poor load transfer between trunk to hips)
  • Digestion problems (inflammation of the gut causes problems with psoas which lies very close to the bowels)
  • Mood – posture and breathing is affected by mood and can therefore have affect on the hip flexors

Hip flexor stretches should form part of your daily routine and, as with any kind of stretching, full attention should be given.

Watch this five minute video which explains the anatomy of the hip flexors and how to stretch them in a safe and practical manner. Try to use these examples pre and post class and feel the difference in minutes. YouTube link:

For any further assistance or advice for your dancing technique and rehab please contact Perfect Form Physiotherapy on (02) 99227721.