Hip flexor stretch on one knee

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Because your hip flexor muscles run across the front of your hip and attach to your lower back, tight hip flexor muscles may be a hidden source of lower back tension. This stretch helps lengthen the iliopsoas (il-ee-oh-so-as) and relaxes your lower back.

A little TLC for your back

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), four out of five adults experience significant low back pain sometime during their life. Work-related back injuries are the nation's number-one occupational hazard, but you can suffer back pain from activities at home and at play, too. The AAOS has developed the following tips to help reduce the risk of back pain when lifting and moving any kind of heavy weight:

i When standing, spread your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support and then slightly bend your knees.

i Tighten your stomach muscles before lifting.

i Position the person or object close to your body before lifting.

i Lift with your leg muscles. Never lift an object by keeping your legs stiff, while bending over it.

i Avoid twisting your body; instead, point your toes in the direction you want to move and pivot in that direction.

i When placing an object on a high shelf, move close to the shelf.

i During lifting movements, maintain the natural curve of your spine; don't bend at your waist.

i Do not try to lift something that is too heavy by yourself or that is an awkward shape. Get help.

For more information, check out the AAOS Web site at www.aaos.org.

To do this stretch, follow these steps:

1. Kneel on your left knee.

2. Bend your right knee, and place your right foot flat on the floor (see Figure 6-11).

Make sure your abdominals are pulled in, chest is lifted, and your shoulder blades are down. Check to see if your shoulders are directly above your hips. Maintaining good posture with your upper body allows you to correctly stretch without straining.

3. Inhale and as you exhale, squeeze your buttocks and tilt your pelvis forward so that the front of your hipbones tilt slightly upward.

You should feel this stretch in the front part of your right hip.

4. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds or four to five slow, deep breaths.

5. Repeat Steps 1 through 3, bending the left leg and kneeling on the right knee.

If this stretch is uncomfortable on the knee supporting your weight, try placing a folded towel or pillow under your knee as a cushion.

A few do's and don'ts for this stretch:

1 Do breathe rhythmically and deeply throughout the stretch.

1 Do keep your shoulders directly over your hips so the front of your hip is lengthened, not shortened.

1 Do focus on squeezing your buttocks and tilting your pelvis forward. 1 Don't hinge forward at your hips. 1 Don't arch your back.

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