Tight Hip Flexors & Lower Back Pain

Tight Hip Flexors & Lower Back Pain
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One of the major factors that can affect your lower back pain is tight hip flexors. This powerful muscle group contains some of the most active muscles in the body. This also means the muscles of the hips can be some of the tightest muscles in your body. The most noteworthy muscles that contribute to lower back pain are your psoas major and iliacus muscle. Together these are called the iliopsoas muscles.

Hip Flexors & The Lower Back

iliopsoas tight hip flexorsYour iliopsoas muscles help with flexion of your hip joint. This means that when you contract your iliopsoas muscles your hip bends and your thigh moves closer to your torso. This is why these muscles are often referred to as ‘hip flexors.’ The psoas muscle is different from the iliacus muscle as it connects your femur (thigh) bone to your lumbar spine. As a result, it also assists with stabilizing your pelvis. Your psoas muscles require the perfect amount of tension to keep your hips stable and able to move with ease. If your psoas muscles are too loose you risk hyperextension and injury. However, if your hip muscles are too tight it restricts your ability to move. Therefore tight hip flexors can directly contribute to your lower back pain.

Tight Hip Flexors & Lower Back Pain

Tight hip flexors affect your pelvis’ mobility which in turn affects your spine’s mobility. Think of your psoas or hip flexor muscles like two thick rubber bands. These rubber bands connect to the lower five vertebrae of your spine and to your femur bone. When a muscle contracts, the rubber band gets shorter and the joint bends. Great! This is exactly what we want to happen. However, if those same elastic bands are a little short, they start to pull at their attachment points. Due to the fact that the vertebra of the lower back are more mobile than your thigh bone, it is your lower back that is put under strain. This can cause discomfort and even lower back pain.

How Hip Flexors Get Tight

First of all, hip flexors get tight through use although genetics can contribute to tight psoas muscles as well. Activities such as running, cycling and strength training can cause your hip flexors to tighten up. Inactivity can also contribute to tight psoas muscles. If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, your hip flexors are shortened. Over time, your muscle fibers adjust to this new, shorter length. Neither scenario is ideal. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to stretch out your hip flexors and take strain off your lower back.

Stretches for Tight Hip Flexors

As the psoas muscles get tight because they spend too much time in flexion, you need to extend the hip flexors to counter any built up tension. Here are three simple stretches that are great for opening up tight hip flexors.

Low Lunge for Tight Hip Flexors
  • From a standing forward fold, step one foot back into a lunge position. Bring your back knee down to the ground. Maybe use a small towel as a cushion for your back knee for comfort.
  • Make sure your front knee is directly over top of your ankle. You want you back leg to be stretched far enough back that your feel a gentle stretching sensation at the front of your hip.
  • Your hands can be on the floor on either side of you front foot. If it feels better, fold your hands on top of your front thigh so your torso is upright.
  • Guide your weight forward to deepen the stretch.
  • To go deeper, bend your back knee and move your heel towards your torso. Reach back and grab your foot or ankle. Use your arm strength to draw your foot closer to your bum.
  • Finally, exit the pose as you came into it and repeat on the other side.
Half Pigeon Pose for Tight Hip Flexors
  • Start in Downward Dog. Bring one knee to the pinky edge of the same wrist. Slowly lower yourself down to the ground.
  • Adjust the angle of your shin to deepen the stretch. To go deeper, move your shin closer to parallel to the front of your mat.
  • Make sure your front knee is either directly in front of your hip or a little wider than your hip. You want your back leg to be stretched straight back behind you.
  • To target the hip flexor, bend the back knee just like you did in your lunge. Hold on to your ankle or foot as you gently guide your heel closer to your bum.
  • For a more gentle stretch, leave the back knee straight and fold your torso forward over your bent leg.
  • If the stretch is too deep, place a yoga block or rolled up blanket underneath the hip of the front leg.
  • Finally, exit the pose as you came into it and repeat on the other side.
Half Happy Baby for Tight Hip Flexors
  • Start lying on your back. Keep one leg extended out straight and draw the other knee in towards your chest.
  • Keep your knee bent and position your foot as if you are squatting on the ceiling. Grab the outside of your foot with the hand that is on the same side. Keep your arm to the inside of your leg.
  • Gently pull down on your foot as you press up into your hand with an equal amount of pressure. Move your knee a bit wider than your body if that feels more comfortable.
  • Finally, exit the pose as you came into it and repeat on the other side.

In conclusion, your hip flexors can have a major impact on your lower back pain. However, as mentioned in Lower Back Pain: 5 Causes & Treatments, your hips might not be the only thing that may be contributing to your lower back pain. Have a read and get a handle on your low back pain today!

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