Recently I was diagnosed with sciatica and noticed soreness not only in my lower back but also in the fronts of my hips. When I went to my massage therapist, part of the treatment focused on the front of my hips, which surprised me. As it turned out, both the sciatica was related to my tight hip flexors, which could be traced back to my sitting for long periods – too long, actually.
Sitting, and sitting some more
The reality is that I wasn’t taking as good care of myself as I ought to be. Instead, I was putting in long hours at the computer desk. Sigh, I know, I wasn’t making time for self-care, which I’m usually very good about.
But the reality is that freelance work isn’t steady and so I have periods when it’s booming and then other times when crickets chirp. So, I took the work as it came. And sore hips, as well as spasming lower back, was the result.
Let’s focus this post on tight hip flexors and how they relate to the sitting position. By the way, sitting isn’t just at an office job, when you stop to really think about it. You also have to think about the rest of your day, including the following seated positions:
- Driving a car
- Riding a bike
- Sitting on the couch
- Propped up reading in bed
As you can see, a large part of the day can be on our butts! Or at least that’s what I was doing.
Signs of tight hip flexors
So, how exactly do you know if this part of your body is tight?
For me, it was a soreness in both front hips. If I put any pressure with my hands on them, they felt sensitive.
I also felt tightness as I walked. I could feel the straining of the hips.
Also, if you have lower back pain, it could link to tight hips, and loosening them might be your ticket to feeling better when it comes to your backside. Interesting, right?!
A telltale sign is to lay on your back and see if your legs lower to the surface you’re lying on. If not, that’s because your hip flexors are so tight that they’re elevated. That’s what my massage therapist found when I was stretched out on the table. She said I was out of alignment, uh oh.
Lastly, take this quick test to see if your hips are tight:
- Stand up naturally
- Look at your feet
- Toes pointing outward (not straight ahead)?
- If so, your hips are tight
Other causes of tight hip flexors: It’s not only sitting for a long time
While for me the primary cause of this issue stemmed from long hours on my behind working at the computer desk, there are other sources. Some reasons for tight hips are:
- One leg is slightly longer than the other
- Sleeping all night on one particular side of the body
- Regularly leaning on one hip (irregular posture)
- After running long distance
Hip flexors: It’s a group of muscles, not just one
I would be remiss not to say that the hips are complex, which makes finding the source of the tightness and the solution more complex than the basics I’m providing here. The hip flexor muscles are a group of muscles that includes the iliopsoas.
The iliopsoas is a compound muscle made of the iliacus and psoas muscles. These two muscles generally merge at the thigh, while they’re separate at the abdomen.
The iliopsoas muscle is important when learning from resources like Hip Flexors Info because it flexes the thigh at the hip joint, as well as externally rotating the thigh. Thus, it is integral to walking, as well as running. Furthermore, it stabilizes the trunk of the body.
Stretches for hip pain
For me, relief came from using a foam roller at the gym. I would roll it over the front of each hip, positioning myself as shown in the video below.
I propped myself up on my elbows and extended my body, positioning first the left hip over the foam roller and then the right hip. The key to foam rolling is small, slow movements, rather than long sweeping ones. And stay on the sore spot for half a minute or so until you feel it release.
At least that is what worked for me. Also, I needed to do so regularly; about 3 times a week I went to the gym to use the foam roller. It might be something for you to consider if you have hip pain at night, for example.
I really did feel such a relief after a week of foam rolling (3 sessions). I took my time, on one hip and then the other. It was nice to feel less pain.
In addition, yoga can be a great way to increase the range of motion you have in the hip area. Of course, yoga is also terrific for improving flexibility, not to mention being helpful for easing the mind when feeling stress.
Hip-opening yoga moves include:
- Downward-facing Dog (see next paragraph)
- Runner’s Lunge
- Pigeon Pose
For the Downward Dog pose, you can try the 3-legged downward-facing dog variation. It is known for opening the hips, as well as strengthening the standing leg. It feels amazing to open the hips up!
Sitting too much: Ways to improve your routine
Once you’re doing the stretches, you really won’t want to go back to the original pain and discomfort in the hips. To help keep that issue from coming back, you might want to get a sit-stand desk, which I did. I plan to do a full review of my desk in the future.
What I do now is I rotate between 30 minutes standing and 30 minutes sitting at the computer desk during my workday. As well, I take regular breaks, once in the morning, then at lunch, and again mid-afternoon.
During those breaks, I walk around the house or for a short stroll outdoors. I also do some of those mentioned yoga poses a few times a week.
Another easy way to sneak in some active time is when talking on the phone. I now walk around the room or up and down the hallway when I’m on the phone, rather than sitting down.
A great bonus of getting more activity in during my day is that I feel energized mentally. For example, there’s something about getting out of the office for a 10-minute break that makes me have new ideas more often than not when I return back to the room.
What are some other ways to keep yourself from sitting too much? Also, have you ever felt tight hip flexors and, if so, how did you remedy the situation?