Part of our modern dilemma is that most of us spend a lot of time sitting. Many of us have jobs that keep us at a desk. In addition, we all seem to find computers, TV’s, iPads, and whatnot incredibly fascinating. Even if we try hard, we are often wedded to our tech devices.
I would hazard a guess that if you actually logged in how many hours a day you spend sitting, you would be shocked.
I am going to explore what happens to your hips when you sit a lot. In particular, today’s stars are the three muscles that bring your thigh toward your torso, called your Hip Flexors. If you are sitting right now, look down and notice that your thigh is roughly at a right angle to your torso. And so it goes, hour after hour, in that position.
If that is starting to sound a bit bleak, that’s because it might be. (I don’t want to say IS, because that would be too depressing). IF you get up and move around during the day, like at least every half hour, things are not going to be so bad. But if not, you may develop a modern-day case of a Tight Hip Flexor group.
When that group spends most of the day in the shortened position that happens when you sit, it can become chronically tight. The major player here is a broad, thick muscle called the psoas. It is attached to all five of the vertebrae in your low back at one end, and to the top of your thighbone at the other end. When it becomes chronically tight, it pulls on your low back vertebrae, moving them forward, and compressing them. That can lead to pain in the low back, or your SI joint (those of you who have had back pain probably know about the SI joint as a potential culprit).
On a day when you do not have tight hip flexors, all sorts of good things happen. They are there to help you keep good posture, give you a long walking or running stride, and give your pelvis added stability when you bend forward or to the side. The strength of these muscles helps you to transfer forces from the ground up to your shoulders so that you can pull off a good golf swing, hit a baseball, or throw a ball to a friend.
In short, you want this group to be on board for you. If you are one of the unlucky ones who has to sit a lot, there’s some things you can do to keep this system healthy.
1. It’s important to get these muscles moving. Move around as often and as much as you can. If you are just getting up from sitting for a long time and want to take a few minutes to stretch, move around first. A good idea would be to do 10-15 leg swings on each side (see graphic). Feel free to hang on to your chair while you do this. Start with a small, gentle, motion, and get bigger with the swing as you go along. Take care not to arch your back while you do this.
2. Then use the same chair to get a good stretch. Put one foot on the seat, with your other leg behind you. Press forward, keep your back from arching, and hold this stretch for 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, push forward a little more to get an even better stretch at the front of your thigh (see graphic). Hold this for 8 breaths.
There are many other ways to get this area moving and stretched, but I have given you ones here that you can do quickly and easily in an office or home without having to find a mat or get on the floor. I will talk about those other ones in a future blog. Meanwhile, keep moving!
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