Since someone has to do the job… (Side note: That’s one of the coolest things about our body. There is always a backup system. Always another set of muscles ready to take over. Even if they are not the most effective and it leads to pain and tightness.) So, who takes over for spinal stability when the abdominals aren’t fully working? The psoas of course.
Keep it a one joint stretch. Many people want to jump right to performing a hip flexor stretch while flexing the knee. This incorporates the rectus and the psoas, but I find far too many people can not appropriately perform this stretch. They will compensate, usually by stretching their anterior capsule too much or hyperextending their lumbar spine.
The hip rotators not only rotate the thigh on the pelvis but more functionally rotate the pelvis on the weight bearing fixed thigh. Activities such as swing a golf club, and even just walking require some rotation of the pelvis on the weight bearing leg. While we don't need that much range of motion to walk, activities such as running, dancing, tennis, and many other sports can require more hip rotation.
Enthoven WT, Geuze J, Scheele J, et al. Prevalence and "Red Flags" Regarding Specified Causes of Back Pain in Older Adults Presenting in General Practice. Phys Ther. 2016 Mar;96(3):305–12. PubMed #26183589. How many cases of back pain in older adults have a serious underlying cause? Only about 6% … but 5% of those are fractures (which are serious, but they aren’t cancer either). The 1% is divided amongst all other serious causes. In this study of 669 patients, a vertebral fracture was found in 33 of them, and the chances of this diagnosis was higher in older patients with more intense pain in the upper back, and (duh) trauma. BACK TO TEXT
Relaxing in a full squat works for releasing the psoas if you’re comfortable. If you’re desperately trying not to fall over backwards, then you’re probably tightening your hip flexors to hold yourself up. This defeats the entire purpose of a resting squat. Grab something like a pillow or a couple books to throw under your heels and see if you can sink down and “rest” into a resting squat. Hold that for a little bit taking some really deep breaths directing the air and pressure of your breath into your back. Then stand up and move around. I bet your hip flexors will feel looser than before the resting squat.
How to: Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly, and sit your hips back into a slight squat position. Keep your arms lifted at shoulder height, with your elbows bent and facing the side of the room. Bring one foot up, rotate your hips, and place that foot down on the ground, diagonally behind your body. Pause, then return to starting position. That's one rep. Do eight reps on each side. Do three to four sets before moving on to the next move, resting for 30 seconds in between each set.
People routinely have no pain despite the presence of obvious arthritic degeneration, herniated discs, and other seemingly serious structural problems like stenosis and spondylolistheses. This surprising contradiction has been made clear by a wide variety of research over the years, but the most notable in recent history is Brinjikji 2015. There are painful spinal problems, of course — which was also shown by Brinjikji et al in a companion paper — but they are mostly more rare and unpredictable than most people suspect, and there are many fascinating examples of people who “should” be in pain but are not, and vice versa. Spinal problems are only one of many ingredients in back pain. BACK TO TEXT
A pinched nerve is an uncomfortable condition that may cause shooting pain, tingling, and discomfort, particularly if it occurs in your back, spine, or hip. A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding bones, muscles, or tissues. The pressure interrupts proper nerve function, causing pain, numbness, and weakness.
Some of these red flags are much less red than others, especially depending on the circumstances. For instance, “weight loss” is common and often the sign of successful diet! (Well, at least temporarily successful, anyway. 😃) Obviously, if you know of a harmless reason why you have a red flag symptom, it isn’t really a red flag (duh!). But every single actual red flag — in combination with severe low back pain that’s been going on for several weeks — is definitely a good reason to get yourself checked out.
How to: Get in a standing position, with one foot about a foot's distance behind the other, hips in line. Your feet should be flat, and your legs should be straight. Cross the back foot behind the front one as you reach your arm on the same side overhead. Return to starting position. That's one rep. Do eight reps on each side. Do three to four sets before moving on to the next move, resting for 30 seconds in between each set.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hands on hips. Brace your core—imagine you’re about to get punched in the stomach. Without changing the position of your knees, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor (or as far as you can comfortably go without rounding your back). Pause, then lift your torso back to the starting position. Be sure to squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward to lift your torso back to the starting position. This ensures you’re engaging your hip muscles instead of relying on your lower back. Do 10 reps total.
Tight hip flexors occur for a variety of reasons. Those who run frequently or engage in other activities that put strain on the hip flexors are likely to experience hip flexor tightness at one time or another. A blow to the hip or poor conditioning can also be causes of tight hip flexors. These causes can usually be attributed to tiny tears that occur to our hip flexors through rigorous activity.
Today’s guest post comes from Dr. Sarah Duvall, a physical therapist who specializes in women’s health and pelvic function, and who also loves to lift stuff off the floor while helping others do the same. She also has an awesome new course on Postpartum Corrective Exercise for fitness professionals which closes on January 22nd, so definitely check it out.