The rectus femoris is one of the four quadriceps muscles -- the quadriceps are the major muscle group of the front of the upper leg. The rectus femoris attaches to the anterior inferior -- the part toward the feet -- portion of the iliac crest and runs to the base of the patella, also known as the knee. The femoral nerve supplies the rectus femoris with nerves. This is the only muscle that crosses the hip joint, which enables it to work as a hip flexor and a knee extender muscle.
Muscle Imbalances – The front of your hips, your hip flexors, are the muscles that will tighten and shorten while you are sitting for hours each day. While you are sitting, the back of your hips, your glutes and your hip extensors, are being overstretched. But just because they are being tightened and stretched respectively, doesn’t benefit either of them. They are also being weakened because of the lack of use of each muscle group.
Our hip flexors serve many vital functions. The goal of the hip flexor is to make it easy to for joints to move through their full range of motion smoothly. They’re responsible for important aspects of motion, like our ability to bend, run, or kick. Without our hip flexors, controlling the movement of our legs would be virtually impossible. Our hip flexors also work to stabilize the joints of the hips and lower body.
To do this stretch, sit on the floor with your legs about three or four feet apart, depending on how tall you are. Make sure your toes and knees are pointed straight up. Next, take a deep breath, and on the exhale, slowly fold your upper body forward. Rest your hands on your feet, legs, or the floor in front of you and hold this stretch for five deep breaths.
At the very least, the tension and/or spasm in muscles that cross over the hip and attach onto the pelvis can contribute to imbalance, in terms of how strong and flexible each muscle group is in relation to the others. But muscle imbalance in the hips and the spine may make for pain, limitation and/or posture problems. It can also increase the healing challenge put to you by an existing injury or condition, for example, scoliosis.
Some stretching basics: you should feel a stretch, but not pain. If it really hurts, contact a physical therapist and figure out what’s really wrong. If your hip flexors are truly tight, a few weeks of doing these stretches should help you feel better! You should notice relief, so if you’re not, you may have something else wrong besides “tightness,” or you might need to address what you’re doing the other 23 hrs and 50 minutes of each day.
The tensor fascia latae originates from the front of the hip and inserts into a long fibrous band called the iliotibial tract on the outside of the thigh. This muscle supports hip flexion, leg rotation and outward movement of the thigh. Tensor fasciae latae syndrome, also known as iliotibial band syndrome, is an inflammatory condition that most commonly develops in distance runners. Inflammation arises when the muscle and band repetitively rub against the outer head of the thighbone, frequently causing a painful snapping sensation in the hip. Treatment typically involves anti-inflammatory medication and hip-strengthening and range-of-motion exercises. Good running shoes can help prevent tensor fasciae latae syndrome by promoting proper hip, knee and ankle alignment.
Last month, I talked about the unique complexity of the shoulder, and how a problem there can produce effects throughout the upper body. Well, the hips are just as complicated, and pelvic dysfunction can be just as far-reaching. Your erectors, glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, quadriceps, hip flexors, and more all interact at this junction, and a problem with any one of them can lead to debilitating immobility and weakness in lifting and in life.
Understanding the unique functional contributions of the psoas and iliacus illustrates how a weak or under-active muscle can be a factor in both back pain and in quadriceps strains. With back pain, inability to flex the hip past ninety degrees will often cause many clients or athletes to flex the lumbar spine to give the illusion of flexing the hips. Watch how many of your clients or athletes will immediately flex the lumbar spine when asked to bring the knee to the chest. There is a clear distinction between bringing the knee to the chest and bringing the chest to the knee. Attempting to bring the knee toward the chest and above the level of the hip forces the athlete or client to use, or attempt to use, the psoas and iliacus. If they are unable to do this one, or all, of three things happen:
3. Hug it out. Start the supine hip flexor stretch the same as the glute bridge, but keep the right leg relaxed on the floor. Pull shoulder blades down and back to lift hips. Grab the back thigh of the left leg and pull the knee toward the chest. Keep the right leg straight and push its heel into the floor (to feel it in the butt). Hold for 30-45 seconds and switch legs.