Why are my hip flexors always tight?
Last weekend we hosted the "Build a Stronger Back" Workshop at Iron Sharpens Iron in Norwood. A few quick notes on that - first of all, the attendees were incredible. They showed up engaged, excited to learn, and they all worked hard to understand each concept we covered. Second, a big thank you to Alex Harbin and the rest of the team at Iron Sharpens Iron. If you haven't checked out their new space in Norwood - please do! It is beautiful, and I should also mention their boxing classes are so much fun!
Now onto this weeks topic. During the workshop, I asked the attendees how many people there felt like their hip flexors were tight. I was not surprised to see that basically every person in the room raised their hand. This is a common thing I hear from my patients, and many times they say "no matter how much I stretch, they just never loosen up!".
So the question becomes, are the hip flexors really "tight"? As in, is that muscle shortened? Why does it feel that way? And why doesn't stretching help?
The sensation of muscles being "tight" can mean a few things. Yes, some times the muscles really do tighten up a bit, particularly in people who are in sitting positions for long periods of time. I have commonly seen patients who sit for their job 8+ hours/day that have tightness in their hip flexors and hamstrings, and when we do simple flexibility testing - they really are tight. But, I have seen many individuals who feel they are tight, but when we do flexibility testing their range of motion is completely normal and they just feel a strong stretching sensation at the end range of motion. So why do they feel so tight? It could be due to the hip flexors and/or "core" actually being weak. When there is weakness in the abdominal stabilizers, pelvic floor, or hip flexors, the hip flexors will actually tighten up or guard to try and provide stability to the hip. This provides the individual with the sensation of muscle tightness. The same thing can happen in other muscles throughout the body (hamstrings, calf muscles, upper trapezius muscles in the neck, etc). There can be other reasons that muscles tighten or "guard" as well, including pain or joint restrictions.
Again, we return to the recommendation of an individualized assessment. Are you tight, or weak? Is it the muscle, or could it actually be the joint? Are you experiencing pain that could be causing the muscles to guard?
If you have been struggling with tight hip flexors, try doing some strengthening exercises (see our Instagram page for ideas!). If you are experiencing pain, schedule an appointment for your individualized assessment today.