For that is just the place and time that the tide will turn
Do you do a lot of sitting? Do you suffer from back pain occasionally? If you do, you are part of the majority. We can probably blame technology for the amount of sitting we do. Technology be it computers or other devices is ubiquitous. Most of our devices are used while we are sitting and less time is spent out of the sitting position. And, the majority of people are not getting an adequate amount of exercise weekly (some studies have concluded that the number is as high as 80%). Today I came across an article saying it’s time we pay employees to exercise.
This post isn’t going to get into the benefits of having a workplace that encourages working out, but I think this shows the importance and the slow realization that we perform better when we are active or workout.
My point I guess is that our body is taking a beating from all the sitting we do, and it needs to be addressed. Outside of working out, I want to spend some time on explaining some of the things we can do to loosen those tight hip flexors.
What are they
Hip flexors is a general term used to refer to the muscles that move our femur to a flexion position. There are a number of muscles that comprise what we call the hip flexors. I’m not going to name them but instead I want to explain what they do. Flexion is the movement that decreases the angle between two bones at a joint. Hip flexion brings the femur (the bone in our legs above the knee) closer to our body. Now if we compare the position of the femur when we stand to when we are sitting you can see that the femur is closer to our body when sitting. Muscles can only contract and pull so to bring the femur closer to our body our hip flexors pull the femur to keep it in that position.
And because we keep our legs in flexion state because of all the sitting we do, these muscles stay in the contracted position and end up becoming tight. We probably don’t even realize it. The indicators of tight hip flexors don’t so much point to the hip flexors as the issue but instead manifest in other issues such as back problems, knee problems, hip problems and so on.
Alright, having said all that let’s spend some time looking at what can be done to loosen our hips. I’m going to list some stretches you can do, but I will defer to external sources for some of these because I can’t really explain them well enough for you to get the benefit.
I’m going to start with one of my favourites, and oldie but a goodie, the kneeling lunge. This one is really straight forward, easy to do and doesn’t require much.
Kneeling lunge: Start by kneeling on one knee. The front leg should be bent at about 90 degrees. The back leg should be straight behind you, having your foot as far back as it can go. Have your foot on the back leg positioned so the top of your foot is on the ground. Keep about 55 – 60% of your weight on the front leg. Gently press your hip forward feeling the stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds then switch legs.
Things to watch for: Watch that you don’t extend the front knee forward of your toes. Keep the leg that is behind you straight back from your hip. Don’t let it move to the outside or the inside.
Half Pigeon Pose: This is one of the stretches that I’m going to defer to external sources. I would recommend that you take yoga classes to learn this pose. The half pigeon pose is great for stretching the psoas muscle which is one of our hip flexors that end up becoming tight. It’s a tough one to do if you have tight hips but if you work at it you will loosen up your hips.
Things to watch for: This can be a tough stretch. Ease into it. Let time do it’s thing to loosen up the muscles.
Kneeling lunge variant: This stretch is the same as the kneeling lunge with the modification of putting the back foot up against a wall behind you. Position yourself so your back knee is about 8 inches forward of a wall. Now with your leg bent, rest your foot against the wall. Now lower your hips until you can feel the hip flexors of the leg that has it’s foot up on the wall start to stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds than switch legs.
Things to watch for: Same things as the kneeling lunge.
So much more
It shouldn’t take much to do these stretches but the benefits will be huge! Try to make it part of your weekly routine, and then maybe your routine every other day. Watch for the progress and see if other parts of your body feel better, are less injury prone.
It’s your body, give it the respect it, and you deserve.
Yours in health,