Hip flexor pain is a side effect of our sitting culture.
So let’s talk about this and see if we can’t get you a little relief.
Just so we are all on the same page, this is the area I am talking about.
This is not an exhaustive guide to hip flexor pain. What I want to do is give you some insight into how I approach a client in pain.
I have a client in her 50’s who would sporadically develop pain in the right hip flexor. Within a day she would also experience knee pain on the same leg. This case was a total mystery. It makes sense in that the hips and knees are linked. If one is out of alignment it will affect the other. Sometimes we would run and it would hurt the next day, some days it wouldn’t. We could do a hard leg workout and it would be fine. Some days we would do an upper body workout and the hip flexor would be sore the next day. See what I mean? No real rhyme or reason to it.
As a trainer specializing in corrective exercise, I can’t let this stuff go on. I need to find out what the root problem is and get her some relief.
When you have a pain like a hip flexor pain, it seldom seems to be the actual hip flexor. You feel the pain there but that is the effect. The cause will be somewhere up or down the muscle chain. In this case I want to take a look at the lower back and down the back and front of the leg. Something is causing the hip flexor to tighten up. So either a neighboring muscle isn’t going it’s job and the hip flexor is being called upon to help out or something is out of whack and pulling on the muscle. Make sense?
Foam Rolling and Smashing techniques are great ways you can start tracing the root cause. I have a page of free videos here at Rehab 101 you can watch to learn how to do this. You are looking for “hot Spots” or “knots” that you are going to work out.
Ways to get Temporary relief
- Heating pads work well although this is a tricky place to place it!
- Ibruprofen will help manage the pain. But remember the idea is not to mask the pain but to fix it. Pain relievers only mask the pain, they don’t cure it.
- Rolling and Smashing will give you instant relief and may actually fix the issue. See the free videos here.
- After rolling and smashing, some good stretching can help. Here are some of my favorite stretches.
So the first thing is to try and change one thing at a time to get to the root of the matter.
This is the number one culprit for knee and joint pain. Running shoes are specialty shoes meant to redistribute the force from your foot hitting the pavement. running shoe companies say the support will start breaking down after 6 months to a year. The second issue is if the shoe is the right running shoe for you. For example. some shoes offer more stability for heavier runners. Some have a raised side of the heel help offset over-pronation. The wrong type of shoe can exaggerate your imperfect heel strike and make matters worse. Her shoes were old so she went to a running store, had her stride analyzed and bought a new pair of shoes. This helped but didn’t fix the issue.
Poor exercise form
Nope, this wasn’t it. Squats were in alignment, the knees tracked over the ankle, body weight was back. By the way, do you have any questions on how to do squats and lunges properly? Here is a page with the best leg exercises with detailed instruction on how to do them properly.
We started doing more bridges and glute exercises just in case there was a muscle imbalance. again, you can see the exercises here. These included bridges and Romanian Deadlifts. Working the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) allow the hip flexors to relax.
Sound crazy? Maybe but pay attention to this. She was waking up in the middle of the night with the hip flexor pain because she was sleeping with her hips in the flexed position. This is a hard habit to change but it can be done. Now this was irritating the hip but it still wasn’t the root cause.
The only other thing left was to look at what kind of shoes she wore during the day. Usually they were tennis shoes but occasionally they were high heel boots. Aha! But here is the tricky thing. The shoes never hurt while she was walking in them. it was only the next day that the hip pain would start.
Here is what I think was going on. Flat shoes tend to mimic your foot the best. When you start raising the heel as in boots, running shoes and heels it changes you center of gravity. The raised heel automatically tips you forward. So if you don’t want to fall forward you need to correct your posture by leaning back. This causes the calves to stay slightly flexed. The quads and hip flexors are also put under tension as they need to stabilize the knee and hip joint. This will also tend to cause the person to hyper-extend the back slightly causing lower back pain.
Add to this that she naturally walks a little duck-footed (toes outside of the heels) and we figured out the problem. She stopped wearing the boots and the pain went away 100 %. Go figure.
Sometimes the pain you feel can be caused from something as innocent as the way you sleep, pillow height, choice of shoes or socks.
- Start with the most obvious and common causes and work towards the lesser and more bizarre causes.
- Do this one step at a time so you know what is actually causing the pain. if you change too many things, you will never pin the source down.
I hope this helps. Realize that I am not a trained Doctor, just someone who likes to fix these things. These things just don’t happen and it is important to get well asap before one pain leads to another pain.
Hopefully you enjoyed the article!
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