A Bit About The Hip Flexor
The hip flexor muscle complex extends from your diaphragm (breathing muscle that sits under your ribs) all the way down to your thigh bone (femur). This long and vital muscle group is strained during pregnancy as you begin to "over arch" your back to balance out a growing belly. This posture has several ramifications for the hip flexor and may leave you with back pain or the feeling that you need to stretch your hip flexors post baby. But, there are a few things to consider before you start your hip flexor stretches! I invite you to consider how your breath, posture and movement might be a better solution to alleviating hip flexor "tightness."
Posture To Reduce Hip Flexor Pain
When we stand in a typical upright posture the hip flexor runs straight down from the diaphragm, attaching to several vertebra of the lower back. Studies indicate that the top portions of the psoas act as stabilizers of the core. With the spine in an over arched (extended position) for a prolonged period during pregnancy or even when holding babies, we are taking the muscle and inhibiting its ability to work in an optimal position. The upper portions of the psoas are elongated and can't work effectively as a stabilizer. In addition, it is possible that there is an increase in shear force (rubbing) on these tissues as they now have to course over the vertebra at a new angle. Of course the muscles feel tight! They are on stretch! They do not need more stretching. The lower fibers of the hip flexor may indeed be a bit tight as they shorten slightly with back extension. This can be addressed with postural correction much more efficiently than a stretch. Its not what you do for 30" but how you move and hold yourself throughout the day that matters more! Working on posture to avoid over arching of the spine is a critical step to reducing hip flexor tightness and back pain.
Breathing And It's Effect On The Hip Flexors
The diaphragm and psoas major are connectd. During pregnancy the diaphragm cannot descend it's full excursion during the last months of pregnancy. Under proper conditions the diaphragm and upper portion of the psoas move synergistically with breathing to provide support to the core. During pregnancy (or when standing with your butt clenched and back overarched), this nourishing ebb and flow of the diaphragm and it's effect on the psoas is interrupted. Focusing on reconnection of a full breath to the pelvic floor when in a variety of positions will help to re-engage this dynamic duo, restore function and reduce pain.
Movement To Restore Hip Flexor Activation And Reduce Back Pain
Lastly, engaging your breath in a variety of positions to retrain the connection of the hip flexor to breath is the first step to restoring core stability to reduce back pain. Remember that you need to be strong and stable in a variety of positions and in that the psoas can be retrained to function as part of a team not as a stabilizer on its own .
Want to learn more? Check out my breathing video as step 1. Call or email me with any questions!
Is a mom of two, life long exercise & nutrition enthusiast, women's health specialist & physical therapist.