Tight hip flexors and extensors put the brakes on a steady exercise routine. Strained front thighs, pelvis and hamstring muscles may even cause your back to ache. Regardless of the cause -- poor posture or a sedentary lifestyle -- seeing a massage therapist for manual stretching exercises can help. While massage therapy is non-invasive, check with a doctor if you have a chronic condition or a previous injury that massage might aggravate.
Hip Flexors and Extensors
Two muscle groups form your hip flexors and extensors. The iliopsoas, rectus femoris and sartonius create the flexors, while the gluteus maximus, hamstrings and bicep femoris form the latter. Together they help the hip flex and extend, move the upper leg and stabilize your pelvis. Stay flexible to keep your flexors and extensors in tip-top shape. Avoid activities that tighten these muscles, like sitting in an office chair all day. Opt instead for stretches and exercises that encourage flexibility.
Tight hip flexors and extensors create a domino effect. When your hip muscles tighten, this triggers your pelvis to tilt toward your tailbone, throwing your back out of alignment. A misaligned back can cause pain and discomfort. A massage therapist can strengthen the hip-supporting thigh muscles and the joint itself. Besides helping you recuperate from an injury, regular massages help prevent re-injury by increasing hip muscle and joint flexibility and strength.
Your massage therapist moves the hip joint, and flexor and extensor muscles, to release tension. She may set you near the edge of the massage table for stretches that involve dangling one leg over the side of the table as you lie face up. Your massage therapist may also place you on your side for either the pulling the thigh or pushing the thigh stretches. You'll face away from the therapist during "pulling the thigh," while the masseuse presses down on your hip, stabilizing your pelvis. She will pull your thigh toward her, rotating the hip joint and stretching the hip flexors and extensors. Or try the prone stretch, which has you lying on your stomach while the massage therapist sits on your buttocks, facing away from you and pulling your thigh toward her chest.
Do-It Yourself Stretches
Make your massage last by mastering at-home stretches. Massage therapy veteran Joseph E. Muscolino, a chiropractic physician and professor, suggests basic and advanced standing and kneeling lunges to stretch the hip muscles. Bridges are another staple advocated by Muscolino. Half-bridges target the upper and lower body, and progress into a full bridge. Try the lower-body bridge first and work up to a full bridge. Lie on the floor with your arms at your sides. Bend your knees, rest your neck against the floor and raise your hips. Hold until you feel a slight burn in the pelvis, and then lower your hips.
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