Hip Pain: How Tight Hip Flexors Might Be the Cause

Stretches for hip pain | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

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Tight hip flexors may be causing your hip pain. Check out this guide for seniors that uncovers if hip tightness by be contributing to your pain and what stretches for hip pain you can start doing. 

Thanks to Covid-19 many of us are spending a lot more time at home. This also means we are spending a lot more time sitting.

While we think of sitting as a way to relax, just like with dessert, there can be too much of a good thing.

Causes for Tight Hip Flexors

The number one cause? You guessed it…sitting.

In fact, a study shows we tend to sit for over six hours a day! Let’s be honest, that statistic might be a lot higher thanks to 2020.

When we sit our hip flexors (the muscles in the front of your hip) are in a shortened position. Overtime when our muscles stay in that shortened position they actually become shorter.

This means, all this extra sitting we’re doing can lead to hip tightness.

cause of hip tightness chart

Tight butt? Great. Tight abs? Cool. Tight hips? Oh no!

Now you may be thinking to yourself, I am having hip tightness and pain but I’m active! I walk, run, bike, etc.

But here’s the thing, we can have tight tightness not only from sitting too much but also from not strengthening our muscles in a balanced way.

Let’s think of it this way when you look at kids playing they move all over the place. They move forward, backward, diagonal, to the side, and oftentimes tumble over and bounce back up.

We move in all directions when we are kids, but when we become adults we start to move in only one direction: forward.

When we walk, run, and bike we use similar muscles which means some muscles end up being stronger, while others become weaker. This imbalance tends to lead to hip stiffness as well.

Muscles That Support The Hip

The major players when it comes to hip stiffness are the glutes, the hamstrings, and the hip flexors. All three groups are engaged when we stand up and relaxed in that shortened position when we sit.

Hip flexors (Quads and Iliopsoas)

stretches for hip pain

These muscles are responsible for lifting your leg. If you mainly feel your hip pain in the front of your hip, the hip flexors are likely the culprits.

Glutes

glute diagram

These muscles are responsible for extending your hip and helping you stand up. If your pain is in your bum, your glutes are your target.

Hamstrings

hamstring picture diagram

These muscles are responsible for extending your hip behind you and bending your knee. If your pain is in your sits bones or just below your bum, your hamstrings are your target.

A Simple Test To See If You Have Tight Hip Flexors

Here’s a simple test to check for tight hip flexors that you can do at home:

tight hip flexors test
  • Sit on the very edge of your bed.
  • Grasp under one knee and pull that knee up toward your chest and hold it there.
  • Then slowly lay back onto the bed while still holding your knee. Let your other leg relax over the edge of the bed.
  • If your leg is not able to extend all the way so that the back of your thigh comfortably rests on the bed while also bending your knee 90 degrees, you have tight hips.
  • Test on both sides.

What Can You do to Help With Your Hip Pain?

One of the best things you can do is perform stretches for hip pain! The key to a good stretch is to actually hold the stretch. But really, use a timer.

What makes a stretch a “good” stretch?

Stretching can sometimes feel like the longest seconds of your life and it can be really easy to hold a stretch for only a few seconds before we call it good.

The thing is, research shows that you have to hold a stretch between 30 and 60 seconds to have a long-lasting change to muscle length.

One way to think about this is with a rubber band. If you stretch the rubber band for one second it returns back to its original shape.

If you hold that rubber band in a stretched position for a prolonged period of time, the rubber band ends up permanently stretched.

When we have tight muscles we need to work on that permanent stretch, otherwise, you can perform a quick stretch all you want but you will not see any results and you will still have hip pain.

In general, it is important to keep your muscles balanced between hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings.

This means your best bet to help with hip pain is to focus on all muscle group stretches for hip pain, rather than just focusing on one.

This can be a great way to not only help with hip stiffness and pain but to also help prevent it.

3 Stretches for Tight Hips (Psoas Release)

1. How to Stretch the Front of The Hip

Here we have three levels of hip flexor stretches. Let’s think of them in terms of salsa as mild, medium, and spicy.

Remember, it is always best to start slow when you are trying a new movement. Start with mild, and if you feel safe, steady, and pain-free, then try the more challenging versions.

A. Mild Hip Flexor Stretch

mild hip flexor stretches for hip tightness
  • Start with a wide stance, with your front leg bent and your back leg straight.
  • Focus on opening your hip and standing up tall as you shift your weight into your bent leg.
  • Hold 30 seconds x 3 on both sides.

B. Medium Hip Flexor Stretch

medium hip flexor stretches for psoas release
  • Start with a very steady chair NO WHEELS. When in doubt, slide the chair up against the wall so you can make sure the chair will not move or slip out from under you.
  • Then place one foot on top of the chair in a caption pose. Keep your back leg straight and gently lean forward until you feel a stretch in your hip.
  • Hold 30 seconds x 3 on both sides.

C. Spicey Hip Flexor Stretch

spicey hip flexor stretches
  • Once again, if you are using a chair make sure it is steady and does not have wheels! In fact, for this stretch, you may want to use two chairs.
  • One for your foot, and one for your hands for balance in front of you. Place your foot on the back chair and then hold on to the chair in front of you.
  • Next, you’ll perform a lunging motion. You should feel a stretch in your hip and may feel it all the way down the front of the leg that’s on the chair.
  • Hold 30 seconds x 3 on both sides.

2. How to Stretch the Back of the Hip: Seated Glute Stretch

seated glute stretch
  • When sitting, cross your food over you other knee.
  • Then, keeping your back straight, lean forward till you feel a stretch in your bum.
  • Hold 30 seconds x 3 on both sides.

3. How to Stretch the Back of the Leg: Seated Hamstring Stretch

seated hamstring stretch to realese psoas muscle
  • Start by sitting on the very edge of your chair.
  • Stick one let out in front of you.
  • Then, keeping your back straight, lean forward until you feel a pull down the back of your leg.
  • You may even feel a stretch in your calves as a bonus stretch!
  • Hold 30 seconds x 3 on both sides. 

Why These Stretches for Hip Pain Are So Important

We have to sit and therefore we cannot totally stay away from hip tightness. Regular stretching is important to help balance out all that sitting! A stretch a day keeps the hip pain away.

Not only do stretches for hip pain help with sitting, but they also help with hip mobility. Having hips that move and aren’t tight has a huge impact on balance.

Falls can be devastating and it is always important to set yourself up for success when it comes to fall prevention!

Bottom line: Your hips don’t lie (thanks, Shakira), so take any tightness and discomfort seriously!

Wondering What's Next?

Discover 11 Easy, At-Home “Stretch Exercises” for Stronger, Pain-Free Joints (click below)

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4 Responses

  1. Thank you I will try to work up to the stretches I have a stretched nerve at the moment and it happened trying to stretch farther than I should have a small step not a chair and not pulling the knee so high is what I have to do far, to let the nerve relax

  2. I’m not sure if I ordered from you before or not as my old laptop died & I lost all of my files etc! Please let me know IF I have & can retrieve them and use them! Thanks!
    Susan Pope
    204 Harvest Lane
    Greenwood, SC 29649
    Cell: 864-993-7664

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