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Hip Flexor Pain - Patterns, Symptoms, And Treatment

Hip flexor pain is a subtle epidemic. Centuries ago, the invention of chairs waged war on the hip flexor muscles, bringing the poor hip muscles tightness and tension like never before. Read on to learn what is causing your hip flexor pain, why you are not alone in this pain, and most importantly what to do about it.

Hip Flexor Pain Relief

 

Hip Flexor Pain - What Is It?

9 out of 10 times, pain in the hip flexor muscles is brought on by sitting in chairs. The reason hip flexor pain develops is due to the unnatural, constant shortening of the hip flexor muscles in the sitting position. The human body evolved to jog, bend, squat, and lift - not sit hunched over in a chair 10 hours a day. This new 10-hour-per-day-plus sitting lifestyle is very new to the human experience, and it causes some gnarly tension in the body - particularly in the hip flexors - hence the manifestation of hip flexor pain.

Hip Flexor Pain Patterns And Symptoms

Hip flexor pain can be boiled down to shortness and tension developed by two particular muscle groups: the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and the Iliopsoas (Psoas + Iliacus). Each muscle is anatomically a hip flexor, meaning it functions in swinging the leg forward and bringing the knee closer to the chest. To feel these muscles contract - stand on one leg and bring the other leg to the chest in a marching motion.

Each of these hip flexor muscle groups brings on a slightly different pain pattern. The hip flexor pain caused by Iliopsoas (top image below) is characteristic of the general sitting-induced lower back and hip pain. On the other hand, the hip flexor pain pattern caused by TFL (bottom image below) is more commonly described at hip pain or IT Band pain

iliopsoas hip flexor pain

Iliopsoas Hip Flexor Pain Pattern [1]

TFL Hip Flexor Pain Pattern

TFL Hip Flexor Pain Pattern [1]

Other Hip Flexor Pain Symptoms:

Hip flexor pain symptoms are not just limited to the pain patterns above. Other common hip flexor pain symptoms may include:

  • Hip pain when running
  • Inability to stretch the hip flexor muscles
  • Difficulty sitting for long periods of time

Hip Flexor Pain Treatment

Hip flexor pain treatment is a two step process: 1) deep tissue massage, and 2) effective stretching techniques. These two steps done correctly will open up your hips and potentially relieve a ton of hip flexor pain.

Hip Flexor Pain Treatment Step 1: Deep Tissue Release

The first step to hip flexor pain relief is smashing all of the constant tension and tightness out of the muscles. This can be done by the hands of a trained physical or massage therapist, or at home with a nifty deep tissue release tool like QL Claw. I prefer QL Claw for this function just for the convenience aspect - sometimes you need a deep tissue release right then and there. QL Claw is able to effectively massage all hip flexor muscles to the point of release - check out the hip flexor release page for more info.

Hip Flexor Pain Treatment Step 2: Stretch

After the knots, trigger points, and tension are ironed out of the hip flexor muscles, effective stretching can leap you forward in your hip flexor pain relief. There are tons of ways to stretch the hip flexors, but make sure to stick to these principles:

  • Stretch with knee-straight and knee-flexed orientation
  • Use the floss technique
  • Perform stretches for :45 to 1:30 on each side

If you need stretch recommendations, here are two quick hip flexor stretches that could be used for this step: 

 

 

Thanks for reading, check out the links below for more things hip flexor pain relief!

 
 
 
 

Sources/Influences:

[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

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