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Keeping Your Hip Flexors and Hamstrings Healthy and Protected - Part 1

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

How They Affect Your Quality of Life

Your hip flexors and hamstrings are among the most important groups of muscles in the body. They are necessary for the long term mobility and stability of your lower body. Healthy and well-conditioned hip flexors and hamstrings are key for the prevention of hip, knee and lower back issues.

Acute or chronic pain in these areas can be a sign of a medical concern which should be addressed by your physician or health care professional. If the root of the pain is found to be muscular in nature, it is important for you to understand why it is occurring in the first place. When you have grasped this, you will be able to take the proper steps to correct the problem.

Not As Well Understood as Other Muscle Groups

Compared to some of the more prominent muscle groups, the hip flexors and hamstrings are not well understood by the general public.This is perhaps due to their lack of visibility, even when well conditioned. Their importance often comes to the forefront only when direct discomfort or pain is experienced in the area surrounding the hip joint.

Although there are many ways to treat and address these areas, it is important to identify and understand the mechanics of each muscle as will be discussed below.

Can Tight or Painful Hip Flexor or Hamstring Muscles Affect Each Other?

Yes, but pain in one does not necessarily lead to pain in the other. What they do both lead to are issues in the lumbar region of the back. Initially, it is common to have isolated hip and/or hamstring pain due to muscle weakness and/or tightness in that area. With time however, as these areas become progressively weaker or tighter, the lower back is affected.

How Hip Flexor and Hamstring Issues Contribute to Lower Back Pain

The health of your lumbar spine (specifically the L1-L5 vertebrae and discs) is directly affected by the action of the hip flexors and hamstrings. When there is an imbalance present in any number of these muscles, the lower back can easily be subject to strain and injury.

Corrective action is necessary to reverse this imbalance and therefore reduce the risk of injury to the spine.

It has been well established both in the literature and among health professionals that tight hamstrings are one of the primary contributors to chronic lumbar pain.

Hamstrings and Pelvic Tilt Pain

It is very rare to have chronically tight (or short) hamstring muscles and NOT suffer lumbar pain. The hamstring muscles are a group of very strong and large muscles which are often poorly maintained. It can be very challenging to keep them well conditioned, even under ideal situations.

Tight hamstrings and hip flexors will often occur together. The strong pull of tight hip flexors can lead to an anterior pelvic tilt. This forward tilt of the pelvis causes an increased pull on the hamstrings which contributes to tightness of the muscle group. Another common contributor to this pelvic tilt and the related pain is the hip flexor muscle known as the psoas (pronounced “so-as”) muscle.

Unlike the hamstrings, which are not connected to the lumbar vertebrae, the psoas is directly attached to each of the five lumbar vertebrae.

To maintain the normal and proper curvature of the spine, the muscles which are located in front and behind the pelvis must act and function in a balanced fashion throughout your daily activity. In doing this, they keep the pelvis in a neutral and safe position. This ’tilt’ is important in order to maintain evenly distributed pressure on the vertebral discs.

The Hip Flexor Group

In the figure below we see that the hip flexors perform various functions, especially where some muscles within the group cross over both the hip and knee joints. The hip flexor group consists of the iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, tensor fasciae latae, pectineus, gracilis, adductors and a gluteal muscles.

It is the iliopsoas muscle which has the strongest pull on our spine. It is attached to the L1-L5 and T1 vertebrae. A tight psoas (the part of the iliopsoas that attaches to the lumbar spine) can pull on the spine and compress the discs and vertebral joints associated.

The Actify Physiotherapy Method teaches specific lower back exercises that specifically target the hip flexors and hamstrings among other muscles groups involved. The exercises help the muscles and joints to move in a multitude of directions and positions. These methods teach you how to SAFELY stretch your hip flexor and hamstrings muscle without risk to your spine.

You can learn better methods to safe hamstring stretching than the common “toe touching” method that is deemed directly harmful to your discs.

For more information or for an appointment feel free to contact us at 561-366-2435.

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