Hip flexors are made up of three muscles: rectus femoris, psoas major and iliacus. These three muscles are used when you bend your knees, pull your knees up, bend at your waist and move your legs from side to side. Because running and kicking uses your hip flexor muscles, runners and martial artists are susceptible to hip flexor strain, which is painful. To avoid hip flexor pain, make sure you engage in a thorough warm-up before any kind of athletic endeavor.
Hip Flexor Exercises and Stretches
With strong and flexible hip flexors, you will less likely strain your hip flexors. Here are a few exercises and stretches for healthy hip flexors:
Hip Flexion. Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Hold onto the back of a chair for support. Gently lift your knee towards your chest as far as you can without pain. Repeat nine more times. Discontinue if you feel any pain.
Supine Hip Extension. Lay down on a bench with your back on the bench and your sit bones at the bottom edge of the bench. Gently bend one knee and lift it towards your chest as far as possible while your other foot is resting on the ground. Stay here for five deep breaths and repeat nine more times. Switch to the other side. Discontinue if you feel any pain.
Lunge Stretch. Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart with your hands on your hips. Take a big step backwards with your right leg. Bend both knees as you lower towards the ground. Gently lay your back knee to the ground and untuck your back toes. Keeping your hips squared to the front, gently push your hips forward with your hands. Stay here for ten breaths. Switch sides. Repeat throughout the day.
Seated Butterfly Stretch. Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together and your knees splayed apart. Wrap your hands around your ankles or your feet while gently pressing down on your knees with your elbows. Stay here for ten breaths. Repeat throughout the day.
Bridges. Lay on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the ground. Make sure your feet are hip-width distance apart and your heels are as close to your sit bones as possible. Gently press your feet into the ground while lifting your hips up towards the sky. Stay here for ten breaths. Repeat throughout the day.
Happy Baby. Lay on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the ground. Tuck your knees into your chest and take a hold of the outsides of your feet with your hands, soles of your feet facing the ceiling. Your hands should be pulling your feet, and thereby your knees, toward the floor. Stay here for ten breaths. Repeat throughout the day.
Deep Squat Stretch. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance and point your toes out at a 45 degree angle. Bend your knees as you lower your body into a deep squat. But your hands in prayer position with your elbows pushing your knees out. Stay here for ten breaths. Repeat throughout the day.
Square Stretch. Sit on the floor with your back straight. Bend your right leg as if sitting in a cross-legged position. Bend your left leg, and place your left foot on top of your right knee. Gently push your left knee down to your right foot. Stay here for ten breaths. Switch sides. Repeat throughout the day.
Seated Straddle Stretch. Sit on the floor with your back straight and your legs straight out in front of you. Open your legs to as wide as is comfortable for you. Bend forward at your hips, leading with your chest and with a straight back. Stay here for ten breaths. Repeat throughout the day.
Dealing with Hip Flexor Pain
- Avoid any activity that worsens hip flexor pain.
- Ice your strained hip flexor for twenty minutes, several times throughout the day.
- Keep the leg of your strained hip flexor elevated as much as you can for the first 48 hours after you initially felt the strain.
- Over-the-counter pain medication may help make your hip flexor pain easier to deal with.
- If after three days, and you are still experiencing pain, consult a doctor.