How to: Get on your hands and knees, in a tabletop position (a). Slowly widen your knees out as far as they can go and bring your feet in line with your knees. Your shins should be parallel with one another (b). Flex your feet and ease yourself forward onto your forearms. (If the stretch is too intense, try putting your arms on a block or firm pillow.) Hold for eight to 12 breaths (c). If holding the stretch for longer, try slowly moving your hips forward and backward to bring the stretch to different parts of your hips.
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Keep adjusting your position until you find a hot spot ("A what? I don't know what you're ... Oh! My God! There one is!"), and then hold that position for at least 30 seconds. Your first impulse will be to tense up when you feel tenderness, but it's important that you relax and continue to move around the area. Keep it up, and don't hurry. The more slowly and more often you can do this, the better.
The pectineus is an accessory hip flexor. This short muscle originates from the front of the pelvis, crosses the hip joint and inserts near the top of the thighbone. In addition to hip flexion, the pectineus works with other muscles to move your thigh inward. The pectineus may be involved in groin strains, which occur commonly among players of sports that require rapid acceleration and position changes.
You’ve heard the saying: it’s all in the hips, but for many of us, our hips – or more precisely, our hip flexors – are tight, stiff and inflexible. If you’re an office worker you can probably thank sitting down at your desk 8 or more hours a day for your tight hip flexors. Habitual sitting causes your hip flexors to tighten and shorten – adjustable standing desks, anyone?
For example, your quadriceps muscles are a group of four that are located at the front of the thigh; one of the group members, the rectus femoris flexes the hip, which brings your lower extremity (thigh, lower leg, and foot) forward, in front of you. On the other hand, your hamstring muscles are located at the back of the thigh. When they contract, they extend the lower extremity, bringing it behind you.
Frequently, I find that these individuals have increased TONE (resting muscle tension) due to poor core stabilization. In response to this dysfunction, the body increases tone in the hip flexors to help create some stabilization. In treating these individuals, I want to decrease tone of these muscles and then follow that up with specific exercises that help them develop better core control.
This stretch targets the abductors and deeply opens the hips and groin while lengthening the hamstrings. Lie on your back with your legs straight. Keeping your right leg straight, extend it up to your side, reaching hold of your ankle with your right hand. Continue to pull your leg higher up to your right side, into a half-split pose. Hold this position for 30 seconds before releasing and attempting with the opposite leg.
To test the flexibility of the hip flexors, specifically the iliopsoas, the Thomas' test10 is used. The patient lies supine and flexes one hip, pulling one knee to the chest. If a hip flexion contracture is present, the contralateral straight leg will rise off of the table. The modified Thomas' test (Figure 12.11) may be preferred. With this variation, the patient sits at the end of the examination table with the knees flexed to 90 degrees. Next, one knee is pulled tight to the chest. The patient is instructed to lie down while maintaining the knee against the chest. If a hip flexion contracture is present, the contralateral leg will rise off of the table. If a rectus femoris contracture is present, the contralateral knee will extend.
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.
Tight hip flexors can also make it harder for your glutes to activate—since they're opposing muscle groups, when one is really tight the other becomes lengthened. When a muscle is more lengthened than it should be, it takes away some of its ability to contract. When your glutes are in this compromised position, it can cause other muscles to do more work than they should, making your workouts less efficient and sometimes, increasing your risk of injury.