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Hip Flexor tightness often overlooked

September 4, 2012 3:15:14 PM PDT
What do sleeping curled up in a ball, long hours driving and sports have in common? Pain from tight muscles that attach your spine and hips - they're called the hip flexor muscles.

Hip flexor tightness is one of the most overlooked causes of pain from the back down to the foot. Over the past two decades, it's been focused on more and more as athletics, especially spin classes, have become a part of daily life for many of us.

Sports Entertainment Executive Michael Patent is also a competitive runner with the Central Park Track Club. He had foot trouble recently and was surprised when he was told where it was coming from.

"Thought it was plantar fasciitis, one of the most common running injuries and Gary almost immediately informed me that it was not coming from my feet it was coming from my hip," said Michael.

Physical Therapist Gary Guerriero stretched out Patent's hip flexors ? three muscles that run from the inside of the spine to the hip. They raise your leg when you climb stairs, and pull your torso forward.

If you don't stretch them after sitting for several hours or after exercise, especially cycling, they get short and tight.

"Any repetitive hip motion will be tugging on them like a string and create the problem," said Gary Guerriero of the U.S. Athletic Training Center.

The result can be foot pain such as Michael's knee pain. Even back pain, or sleeping in a fetal position shortens those muscles for eight hours at a time. Hip flexors are often ignored by athletes and trainers.

"I've been exercising all my life, and I've been shown how to stretch my legs and shoulders, but it was only several weeks ago that anyone showed me how to stretch my hip flexors," said Michael.

A simple exercise can stretch the flexors. It's the rear leg flexors that stretch out in this position, because those muscles pull your torso forward, stretching them improves your posture.

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