Addressing General Hip Flexor Pain in Everyday Life

Addressing General Hip Flexor Pain in Everyday Life

Hip flexor pain is common amongst sedentary and active individuals. Although many people have different habits, environments, and lifestyles, presenting symptoms of hip flexor pain are often quite similar. If you’re someone who is dealing with hip flexor pain, what should you do and how can you resolve, or at least improve symptoms? This article will be divided into three subsections. First, I will go over the anatomy of the hip joint, next I'll describe what causes pain in hip flexor, and finally I will review some exercises and treatments for the hip flexor.

Anatomy of the Hip Joint

First and foremost, the hip flexor is not one singular muscle, rather, it is a group of muscles including the psoas major, iliacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, and sartorius, (The rectus femoris is also considered a quad muscle). These muscles each attach to various points on the spine, pelvis, and femur. 

Below is a diagram of the hip flexor muscles: 
(Source: Tom Morrison)

The hip flexor muscles are primarily responsible for bending the torso forward (trunk flexion) and also for lifting the knee or hip up towards the torso (hip flexion). Understanding the anatomy of the hip joint can help you pinpoint your symptoms and help you more accurately diagnose your specific hip flexor injury. 

What Causes Hip Flexor Pain

There are a lot of different causes of chronic hip flexor pain, but the most common cause is often shortened hip flexors from prolonged sitting. When sitting your muscles are in a both flexed and relaxed position. This means that your muscles will be shortening without getting stronger. Now take a look at the picture of Usain Bolt below while keeping in mind the anatomy of the hip joint.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty images)

At this particular moment in time, Bolt’s right leg is in a hip flexion position while he is running. Bringing the leg into this position requires strength and energy, unlike when sitting down. Another important detail to point out is the fact that his left and right foot are performing opposite functions at the same time. In other words, while his right hip flexor muscles are flexing or squeezing, his left hip flexor muscles are lengthening or stretching. From this image, we can get a better understanding of how opposite sides of the body are designed to work together. And also how while one hip flexor is shortening and being strengthened, the other is being lengthened. When sitting on the other hand, both of your hips are in hip flexion and they are also getting weaker, which is why people might experience hip flexor pain from sitting down for a long time. 

Alright but why do people who exercise experience hip flexor pain?

One answer might be overuse of the hip flexor muscle. This could mean a couple things; on a broad level, it could mean that a person is exercising way too much and their hip flexors are not strong enough to handle the load. 

Another possibility is that the exercises people perform could be damaging their body. For example, someone might be performing squats or deadlifts which do not take the hip flexors through their full or natural ranges of motion, when compared to the gait cycle. Compare the two images attached below. Notice the profound difference between the ranges of motion of the hip flexor in the deadlift vs. running. Especially take into account the fact that the deadlift is a bilateral exercise that never brings the hip into hyperextension. Whereas Usain Bolt on the other hand clearly goes into a strong hip hyperextension while the other leg reciprocally performs hip flexion. 

(source men’s health)


Okay, so by this logic if you run you should be fine. Well if that were the case, why do people who run often experience hip pain? The short answer is that they could be running with poor movement patterns. In other words, their body is not well tensioned and connected to support themselves while running without putting excess strain on their joints. Poor movement patterns coupled with imbalances such as poor hip stability, a weak core, a weak lower back, etc. can be a recipe for hip injury and hip flexor pain including many conditions such as hip bursitis, hip impingements, or hip flexor strains. 

So, How can you Resolve your Hip Flexor Pain?

Functional Patterns recommends improving your movement patterns while strengthening muscle imbalances. It is extremely difficult and near impossible to give a one size fits all approach in an article. The reason being that each person’s biomechanical inefficiencies can be complicated and quite different. Nonetheless, I'll offer some general tips and exercises for the hip flexor that can help reduce pain.

  1. Contralateral Step Press: Check Out the Youtube Video linked below.


2. Myofascial Release On Rectus Femoris: Check Out the Youtube Video linked below
3. Finally, it might help to perform some FP planks with hip extension.


Begin by releasing the muscles around the hip with myofascial release. Next, work on exercises that strengthen your core and hip flexor muscles. Finally, work on exercises that bring your hip flexor muscles into hyperextension while firing your glute max.

I hope this article helps you improve your hip flexor pain and also attain a better understanding of the anatomy of the hip joint and how it relates to human movement.

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