Back pain affects 80 percent of us at some point in our lives. The good news is that for many people suffering from low back pain, exercises to stretch the hip flexor muscles can help.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles than run from your thighs all the way up to your low back. They include muscles with strange-sounding names such as the ilacus, the psoas, and the rectus femoris. As a group, these muscles let you bend at the waist and bring your knee to your chest.
The problem is that many of us spend our days sitting. When we do that, these muscles are always in a state of contraction. This causes them to shorten and become weaker.
One of the hip flexor muscles, the psoas is attached to your lumbar vertebrae—the five bones that form the spine in your lower back. So you can see why tightness or weakness in this muscle could affect your back.
Stretching the hip flexor muscles can help prevent and treat some causes of lower back pain. If you’re having low back pain and you think it might be a result of tight or weak hip flexors, spending a few minutes a day on some simple stretches could help.
Before you start any exercise program, of course, check with your doctor to make sure you’re in good enough health to perform the exercises without hurting yourself and that there aren’t underlying conditions that need to be treated.
If your doctor says it’s OK, try these stretches:
Child’s pose. If you’ve ever done yoga, you’ll recognize this basic pose.
- Start by kneeling with your knees and hands on the ground, facing the floor, with your back straight.
- Then stretch backward so that your hips are on your heels.
- Keeping your hips on your heels, bend forward until your forehead touches the ground.
- Stretch your hands out in front of you until your arms are straight.
- Relax and hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground in front of you.
- Move your right ankle above your left knee and leave it resting on your left thigh.
- Put your hands around your left thigh and pull it toward you, keeping your head and shoulders on the floor.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Then repeat it using the other leg.
- Kneel with your knees and hands on the ground, facing the floor, and your back straight.
- Move your right foot forward so that it’s on the outside of your right hand. Make sure the right ankle is slightly in front of the right knee.
- Extend your left foot back behind you so that your knee, shin, and foot are touching the floor.
- Press your hips forward until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the stretch on the other side of your body.
For more ideas on stretching your hip flexor muscles, check out this Self magazine article or this GuerillaZen Fitness video. You also might find this article on yoga-based stretches helpful.
To be sure you’re doing the exercises correctly, we encourage you to make an appointment with a physical therapist.
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