Hip Flexors and Low Back Pain: A Surprising Connection

Hip flexor tightness can affect many individuals, young, old, active, and sedentary. Many of the patients in our clinic that suffer from low back pain don’t realize that tightness in the hip flexors can be a contributing factor. In this blog, we explore mechanics of the hip flexor, what you can do to prevent hip flexor tightness and treatment techniques for those who are experiencing pain.

 

The hip flexors are a group muscles that cross the front of the hip.

Some of the muscles are:

Iliacus: this one attaches from the iliac crest to the femur (leg bone)

Psoas Major: attaches from your lumbar vertebra to your femur

Rectus Femoris: this quad muscle crosses the hip and the knee and controls hip and knee movement.

 

The muscles need to keep a balance to hold the bones of the body together. If there is tightness in a muscle group it causes imbalanced for on the bones, and pulls the bones out of a neutral alignment. Poor alignment places strain and stress on the affected joints and causes pain.  When the hip flexors are tight this causes a pull on the spine resulting in an anterior tilt of the pelvis. This anterior pelvic tilt causes an increase in lordosis or curve in the low back. Because the psoas attaches to the lumbar vertebra, hip flexor tightness is often a contributor to chronic low back pain. If not addressed, eventually the increased lordosis and anterior pelvic tilt can also weaken the abdominal muscles. Our abdominal muscles are needed to support the pelvis and the lumbar spine. Think of them as a natural corset for the trunk providing stability.

Preventing Injury

We all know what stretching is, and most of us have probably done some stretching movements at some point in our lives. We hear about stretching to prevent injury, to warm up, and to gain flexibility but is it really that necessary? Stretching and flexibility is especially important when it comes to hip flexors and back pain.

Sitting can cause an increase in hip flexor tightness as well as running or biking without performing stretches needed to maintain muscle length.

Treating Hip Flexor Tightness

There are many pieces to the puzzle that tight hip flexors can affect with the balancing act our body does with muscles and bones. Tightness in the muscles can be treated with myofascial release, soft tissue mobilization, stretching, and kinesiotaping. Targeted exercises are given for the areas that are weak to help return muscle balance. Therapists in our clinic assess the posture, muscle lengths and weaknesses. We determine what muscles groups need to be addressed as well as what is causing the imbalance. Treating the cause of the imbalance causing the symptom is what will make life long changes.

 

Andrea Newport, PT

Andrea Newport, PT

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