The Surprising Connection Between Hip Flexors and Your Health
Hip flexors are the engine through which our bodies move ~ Mike Westerdal
You may know that the hips are the prime link between the upper and lower body. They are intimately connected to all body movement. But did you realise that the muscles (hip flexors) within the hip structure are a vital component of your overall health and well-being?
What are hip flexors?
The hip flexors are made up of a group of muscles that extend from one hip bone to the other as they wrap around the back of the lower spine, extend down the inner thigh and attach to the femur at the knee joint. These muscles belong to the skeletal muscle family, which are muscles that connect to all bones in the body.
Specifically, hip flexors consist of three distinct skeletal muscles – the psoas major, psoas minor and iliacus. Together these three muscles are known as the iliopsoas.
Why healthy hip flexors are so important to your health…
Hip flexors are considered the central juncture for all motion in the body. The prime muscle in the hip flexor group is the psoas major. It is the one muscle that attaches the upper body to the lower body in a number of locales. It attaches to:
- the lower spine,
- the pelvis
- the top of the leg bone (femur)
- the diaphragm
The psoas is responsible for creating proper pelvis alignment, stable hips, as it supports the lower spine, abdomen and organs within the pelvic region of the body.
When it is relaxed and loose, the psoas is responsible for:
- smooth mobility (inward and outward hip rotation, twisting and bending body movements, and flexing and straightening the knee)
- inner core strength.
- body balance
- proper functioning of the body’s fat burning capability
- high energy levels
- improved performance (strength and endurance) in athletic endeavours
- optimum sleep
- full and complete breathing
The cause of dysfunction in Hip Flexors
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause hip flexors to weaken due to lack of exercise but the most significant issue that arises due to sedentary lifestyles is the tightening of the hip flexors which also causes the muscles to shorten.
The tightness can cause lower back pain that ultimately restricts full range of motion. Discomfort while walking, bad posture, tilted pelvis and hips that lock up are often signs that there is tightness in hip flexors. Weakened hip flexors can cause pain in joints and might put one at risk for muscles strains and pulls in feet, ankles and knees. This is especially possible for runners.
When hip flexors tighten up, it can lead to a surprising number of other related issues:
- pelvis and hamstrings will also be tight which leads to pain in the lower back, legs and knees
- the discomfort can cause poor sleep at night, and sluggishness during the day.
- low energy and slow metabolic body function can result in weight gain and diminished efficiency in all body systems in the pelvic and abdominal regions
- Belly bulge happens because of pelvic tilt from tight muscles pulling the pelvis out of alignment
- Breathing can be affected through diminished diaphragmatic operation
Taking Care of Your Hip Flexors
- If you sit for long periods of time, be sure to get up every hour or so to walk around.
- Stretch the hip flexors with exercises that maintain flexibility and build muscle strength.
- Make massage a regular part of your routine
How Massage helps maintain healthy hip flexors
Keeping hip flexors (especially the psoas) supple requires stretching in order to improve circulation and relaxation in the muscles. They also need to be strengthened through exercise and massage.
Massage can release tension in the hip flexors through pulling the thigh, applying pressure to hips, rotating and stretching the hip flexors. It can also increase strength and flexibility in the thigh muscles and the hip joint itself.
Flexible and strong hip flexors will go a long way to healthy body function, injury prevention and pain-free mobility. Taking care of your hip flexors is a step toward supporting well-being and the ability to move freely in your life.