Do you have low back pain that has been around far too long? Hip Flexors may be a contributing factor, so learn what they are and why they matter.
To put it simply, the hip flexors are a muscle group that works together to bend the hip, bringing the legs up towards your chest. If only it was that simple none of us would have low back pain, knee pain, pelvic floor issues, groin tightness, etc. The list can go on and on connecting the hip flexors to some pain or dysfunction. But the hip flexors are so much more than trouble makers, in fact, they are three very powerful muscles, the psoas and iliacus (often referred to as iliopsoas, pronounced like illy-oh-so-as) and rectus femoris (our main thigh muscle) We would be lost without them all work in concert to produce movement like kicking, walking, sprinting and dancing. These muscles are largely focused on bending the leg at the hip but the psoas muscle also helps to turn our hips outward like a ballet dancer (external rotation) and bend our trunk forward to pick up a box. The iliacus muscle also contributes to turn the hip out, but it is big helper in getting you up from laying on your back and swaying side to side like you are dancing at high school prom. Rectus Femoris has two purposes it bends the hip and straightens the knee (not shown in the image). The images below show how the muscles attach to the body.
Tight hip flexors can put additional pressure on your spine that can contribute to lower back pain. They can also cause some exaggeration in the curve of your lower back which we often call sway back.
If the hip flexors are not working optimally, other muscle will try to jump in and do some of the work. The body is very good at coming up with compensation patterns to keep us moving. Other muscles that may start to do more work than they should include the glutes (butt muscles), the core (deep tummy & back muscles) and the pelvic floor (your pee stopping muscles). An imbalance in use of these muscles can result in some muscles overworking, while others are “underworking”. The result can be low back pain, strained posture, sacro-iliac ‘SI’ joint pain and pelvic floor issues.
The pelvic floor muscle group (muscles that make up the floor or bottom of our torso) plays an extremely important role with regards to support and stability of reproductive organs and other internal organs. Without the pelvic floor muscles all our organs would fall down because of gravity. Issues can occur if extra stress is placed on the pelvic floor muscles (sometimes related to shortness in the hip flexors). The pelvic floor muscles may start to “overwork” which may lead to an inability to “relax” this muscle group which can lead to potential pee leakage (incontinence) and/or low back or pelvic pain. On the other hand, the pelvic floor muscles may start to “underwork” as a result of mixed signals coming from other, overworking muscles. This can also lead to leakage, bowel incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, where the organs start to fall down due to gravity and lack of support.
So, do you pee a little when you laugh, cough or sneeze? Do you have low back pain that seems to never really go away with trying many different treatments? Do you feel a ‘fullness’ in your pelvic floor that gets worse with long periods of standing? Well, a thorough assessment, stretching and strengthening routine with this added awareness of how some of the muscles in the lower body function would be a great place to start tackling some or any of these issues!