Sitting for long periods of time may lead to a condition called hip flexion contracture. A contracture is an abnormal shortening or contraction of a muscle due to spasm or fibrosis of the local soft tissue and inability to move the associated joint to its neutral position. Prevent and treat a hip flexion contracture with specific stretches that increase hip strength, flexibility and function.
The main muscle crossing the hip anteriorly is called the iliopsoas, which actually consists of two muscles: psoas major and iliacus. The action of the iliopsoas is hip flexion; therefore, it is the muscle of focus in hip flexion contractures. In a seated position, the iliopsoas is in a shortened state. If you do not perform stretches, your muscle will not be lengthened to its neutral position. Incorporating iliopsoas stretches into your daily lifestyle will help keep your hips healthy and prevent hip flexion contractures.
One of the easiest ways to stretch the iliopsoas is to lie flat on your back at the edge of a table or high bed with the targeted side closest to the edge. Hug the non-targeted knee into the chest and let the targeted leg fall toward the floor. This will stretch and lengthen the targeted iliopsoas. Hold the stretch for at least six deep breaths and repeat three times or until you feel the hip loosen up.
A much more advanced way to stretch the iliopsoas is by performing a crescent lunge. Start in a standing position. Step the non-targeted foot forward about 1 foot less than your height. Bend your front knee to about 90 degrees so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Curl your back toes under and keep your back leg straight. For a deeper stretch, reach your arms up and point your fingers to the ceiling.
Another great way to stretch the iliopsoas is bridge pose. Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the floor with your heels as close to your glutes as possible. Lift the hips and slightly turn your toes in. Press your feet down into the floor to lift your hips higher. Focus on lengthening the back of your neck as you lift the sternum toward your chin. If you can, grab your ankles; otherwise, press your palms into the floor with your arms straight. You may feel a slight burn in your quads.
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