Time to Stop Sitting and Start Stretching! – Your Tight Hip Flexors Might Be Giving You Low Back Pain

How much time do you spend driving, at a desk, or watching tv? Sitting has become a posture that many of us frequent throughout our day and likewise, low back pain has become a very common musculoskeletal complaint.

Could there be a link?

If we look at which muscles are inactive and tightened while sitting, the hip flexors- which connect the thigh bone to the pelvis and spine- are in a shortened position. That means that when we stand up, there can be a great deal of pull on the spine from these muscles if we have lost some range of motion due to the tightness. The glutes can become deactivated whilst sitting and are trying hard to work against the forward flexion. This can lead to imbalance in the hips causing back pain and injuries.

Here are 6 ways to manage hip flexor tightness and hip mobility:
  • Desk workers: Explore sit to stand desks as an option.
  • Take small, frequent breaks to stretch and walk each day.
  • Sitting on a fit ball provides a softer landing for the sit bones and allows for subtle movement.
  • Try a Hip flexor stretch (as pictured)
  • Encourage balance by strengthening the hip
  • Hip circles- mobilise the hips by circling them around clockwise and ant-clockwise whilst sitting.
How to:

Kneeling hip flexor stretch: Begin in a kneeling position, before stepping one foot forward to a 90 degree angle, keeping the knee tracking over the ankle but not beyond toes. To intensify, take a few breaths and lean the hips forward, you may creep the foot in front forward to increase the angle before letting the hips sink further.

Modified hip flexor stretch laying on your side: Begin by laying on your side with both knees bent at 90 degrees, wrap a strap or folded towel around the ankle on top, then extend the hip by pulling the ankle back behind you, keeping the knee bent. Hold for 10-30secs and repeat. Bring knees back together before rolling to lay on the other side for opposite hip stretch.

You might like to balance this out with some gentle ‘cat/cow’ movements, on hands and knees, lifting the gaze, dropping the belly. To reverse- look down, push the ground away, spreading the shoulder blades and arch the back.

Tight hip flexors due to prolonged sitting is a common cause of low back pain. We can alleviate some of the tension and regain balance through gentle stretching, taking breaks and mobilising through gentle movements. Sometimes this won’t be enough, especially in chronic presentations and you would likely benefit from some physical therapy such as Massage/Myotherapy or Osteopathy which are both offered at Blackburn Allied Health.


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