Pain in the hip flexors is a very common complaint among athletes and people who are physically active. It can have many different causes, ranging from weakness, tightness, misuse, and overuse. In this post, we’ll explore what they are, why they hurt and what you can do to ease the discomfort. I used to struggle with hip flexor issues for years playing soccer. In my first two years playing pickleball, I found that I had issues on court as well.
Unbeknownst to many of us, hip flexors are constantly engaged even when you are sitting. But what happens when these important muscles become strained or tight? Many of us may be familiar with the aching pain that arises when we feel tightness or discomfort, but why do these muscles hurt in the first place? This blog post will explore the anatomy and causes of hip flexor pain, as well as some treatments to ease the discomfort. So, read on if you’re looking to better understand why your hip flexors hurt and what you can do to get relief.
The human body is built to move, and hip flexors are fundamental to movements of the hips. Hip flexors are a group of muscles located at the front of the hip that play an important role in walking, running, kicking, and other activities. These muscles allow the hip joint to move through its full range of motion.
Unfortunately, many of us don’t use these muscles in the way they were designed to be used, which can lead to tightness and pain. Weak and tight hip flexors can lead to hip, knee, and back pain, as well as poor posture. Regular stretching, massage, and strengthening exercises are all important ways to keep your hip flexors in good condition.
What Are Hip Flexors?
Hip flexors are a group of muscles that are located in the hips and upper thighs and are responsible for hip flexion, or the movement when you lift your knee up towards your body. They are essential for many everyday activities like walking, running, and sitting. When these muscles become overstretched, weakened, or injured, they can cause pain in the hip and lower back. If you hear someone use the word psoas, or iliopsoas, they are talking about your hip flexors.
What Causes Hip Flexor Pain?
Hip flexor pain is a common problem, and it can be caused by a variety of different things. It is important to understand the anatomy of these muscles in order to identify the potential causes of pain. The hip flexor muscles are a group of muscles located around the hip joint. When these muscles are weak, overused or injured, they can become tight and cause pain.
Common causes of pain include tightness, muscle imbalances, overuse injuries, and tendonitis. Tight hip flexors can be caused by activities like sitting for long periods of time or activities that involve repetitive motions such as running or cycling. Muscle imbalances can occur when one muscle group is stronger than another, causing one side to be overused. Overuse injuries can also cause pain, when the muscle is used more than it can handle (not that any of us stay on the court too long…). Lastly, tendonitis occurs when the tendons that connect muscles to bones become inflamed and cause pain.
In addition to all that, you may be underutilizing your bigger gluteus maximus (butt) muscles during athletic movements. In my work with my trainer, Kyle Valery from Stretch Affect, he determined I was pulling my leg forward with my hip flexors rather than driving my leg forward with my glutes. You can watch episodes 17 and 19 of my podcast to see Kyle use me as a guinea pig to illustrate a lot of common issues athletes face.
How Can You Prevent Hip Flexor Pain?
Hip flexor pain can be prevented by stretching and strengthening the hip flexor muscles. Stretching can help to loosen the tight muscles and increase flexibility. Simple stretches, such as “The World’s Greatest Stretch (which I recently wrote about here) are great for really ‘getting into the hip’ from multiple angles.
Strength training exercises can also help to prevent hip pain. Exercises such as squats and lunges can help to build strength. Adding weight to the exercises can help to build muscle strength and reduce potential for injury, however, you don’t need more than your bodyweight to make strides. One alternative move I do every single morning is I lie on my back, bring my knees up to a 90 degree angle, and lower one heel to the floor at a time. Keep the other leg bent while the leg extends to the floor. As you pull that knee back up to 90, you’ll feel all kinds of muscles activating in your hips, groin, and lower abs. I swear that between the worlds greatest stretch and this simple move, I have all but eliminated any hip flexor issues.
How Can You Treat Hip Flexor Pain?
One of the most effective treatments for hip flexor pain is a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises. Stretching exercises help to increase flexibility and reduce tightness in the hip flexors. Strengthening exercises help to strengthen the muscles and support the hip joint, providing relief from pain. However, if you’re already in pain, foam rolling and other self-myofascial release techniques can be used to reduce tension in the area and improve mobility before you attempt any strengthening. I still use my Hyperice Go weekly to help loosen those bad boys up.
In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended. Physical therapy can help to assess the cause of the pain, develop a personalized treatment plan, and provide advice on lifestyle modifications and posture changes to help prevent future episodes of pain.
Hip flexors are important muscles that play an integral role in various bodily activities. The pain associated with hip flexors may be caused by an injury, sedentary lifestyle, or incorrect mechanics while executing physical activities. If you have pain, it is important to find the root cause first, and take the necessary steps to alleviate the discomfort. After all, you don’t want to stretch a weak muscle or try to strengthen a tight one. You may cause more harm then good.
Overall, it is vital to take care of the hip flexors to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Regular stretching and proper form while exercising can help to prevent and reduce any pain associated in the future.