What Is Your Hip Pain Telling You?

What Is Your Hip Pain Telling You?

Most of us have chronically tight hips. If you sit for most of your day (desk, car, couch, etc), and/or if you’re an athlete, we’ll bet your hips are often tense - and maybe even painful.

Assuming your hip pain isn’t the result of an injury or health condition, the great news is, your hip pain is fixable! 

Correcting a pain or dysfunction issue doesn't happen overnight, and of course, the journey to wellness will be unique to each individual’s situation and lifestyle. Our goal is to empower you with the information and tools that can help you get out of pain, reclaim your health, and live life to the fullest.

In this article we’ll teach you what you need to know about your hips, what they affect, what makes them angry, and the best ways to address your hip pain and tension. 


WHAT ARE HIP FLEXORS & WHAT DO THEY DO?

The hip flexors are an important muscle group at the front of your hips.They connect the upper leg to the hip, pelvis, and low back. 

They’re what allows you to bend at the waist, raise your leg, and bring your knee towards the chest. They assist with important movements like walking, running, and squatting. They also support sedentary activities, such as sitting in a chair or reclining on your couch. 

Some of the major hip flexor muscles are the: 

  • Iliopsoas : primary hip flexor muscle group, composed of the iliacus, psoas major, and psoas minor muscles.
  • Rectus Femoris : runs from the top of your hip to your knee across the front thigh. It flexes the hip - along with the sartorius and iliopsoas - and extends the lower leg at the knee in conjunction with the quadricep muscles. 
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) : runs along the side of the thigh and belongs to the glute muscle group. Its main function is to extend and laterally rotate the leg and knee joint. It also assists the thigh and hip joint in movement.
  • Sartorius : a long, thin, muscle that runs down the thigh from the pelvis and outer thigh to the inside of the knee joint. It works with the surrounding muscles to help move the hip and knee joints.

Hip Flexor Muscles

HIP FLEXORS ANATOMY

Let’s take a quick look at hip anatomy so we can understand what’s involved:

When we talk about the hips, we also need to talk about the hip joint, the pelvis, and the surrounding muscles that interact with them - including the gluteus and hamstring muscles.

The hip joint moves in multiple directions and is designed to be mobile and flexible. The muscles that attach to and overlap the hip muscles control the hip joint’s movement and range of motion. Therefore, if any of those surrounding muscles are tight or tense, it can impede the hip joint’s mobility and significantly impact its functionality.

Hip Joint

 

The pelvis is an additional, and very important piece of the hip flexor puzzle. It’s the skeletal structure that connects the lower body to the upper body. While it has less movement than the hip joint, the pelvis is designed to rotate and tilt while supporting the surrounding organs and myofascial tissues. A well functioning pelvis is vital to hip functionality, mobility, and health.

Pelvis Bone



WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE TIGHT HIPS? 

Have you ever felt tightness, tension, cramping, or pain around your hips, groin, and pelvis? If you’re sedentary, your hip flexor muscles are constantly flexed and compressed while you’re sitting. Those muscles will adapt to the shortened position you keep them in all day, and their ability to lengthen and stretch will be decreased. This can lead to brittle, tense myofascial tissues, as well as decreased blood flow and nerve signal. This dysfunction causes postural imbalances which creates more tension and inflammation, which causes more pain and discomfort.

Tight hips often lead to restriction and pain in your low back, hamstrings, and knees. It also limits your athletic performance and overall function. 


HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR HIPS ARE TIGHT?

If your hips are tight, your flexibility will be limited and you’ll probably feel tension or pain.

Try this simple hip flexibility test: 

  • Lie on your back on the floor or another stable, flat surface.
  • Bring both knees to your chest.
  • Hold your right knee against your chest.
  • Straighten your left leg.
  • Lower your left leg as far as possible.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Hip flexors are considered tight if either leg cannot completely lower to the surface you are lying on. If you feel a particularly sensitive spot, that’s an additional indicator of a “trigger point” or a place your body is holding tension.


WHAT YOUR HIP PAIN IS TRYING TO TELL YOU

Pain is a symptom. Think of it like an “error message” or “check engine light” that lets you know something is wrong and needs your attention. The pain itself is just the messenger, it isn’t the root cause of the issue. 

Check engine Light

Paying attention to the pain symptom - aka what your body is trying to tell you - is an important part of identifying and addressing the root cause of the pain. It’s also important to identify if the pain is pointing towards a more serious issue, or if it’s a tension issue that can be easily resolved with the steps we’ll outline in this article. 

There are generally 3 main areas people experience hip pain or tension:

1. Pain in the front of the hip

What it could mean:

  • Tight hip flexors
  • Tendon issues or possible tendon disorder in your hips and/or buttocks areas
  • Undiagnosed hip joint issue - i.e. labral tear or femoral acetabular impingement (FAI)
  • Non-structural impingement

 

2. Pain in the side of the hip

What it could mean:

  • Tight gluteus medius/minimus or tensor fascia latae muscle
  • Tendon issues or possible tendon disorder in your hips and/or buttocks areas
  • Hip joint issue

 

3. Pain in the groin

What it could mean:

  • Tight adductor muscles
  • Tendon issues or possible tendon disorder in your adductors and/or hips
  • Hip joint issue
  • Non-structural impingement
  • Hernia

* Check with your trusted health provider if you have persistent pain in any part of your body so they can determine if your pain is the result of an underlying medical cause. 




WHAT CAUSES HIP PAIN?

You may be surprised to know that most people have tight hips. Whether you spend most of the day sitting, have a job that keeps you physically active, or if you’re a runner or regular gym-goer, we’re willing to bet your hips could use some stretching, lengthening, and decompression.

Main causes of hip pain:

  • Sitting from prolonged periods
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Poor posture, or postural misalignments 
  • Repetitive movements or overuse
  • Impact or injuries
Sitting posture

 

When the deep hip muscles are shortened and contracted for prolonged periods (i.e. sitting all day), the pelvis position and normal curvature of the spine changes. This can cause increased strain on the lower back, shortened hamstrings, compressed glutes, decreased blood flow and nerve signal, weaker and shorter muscles, and overall restriction and tension in the hip flexor muscles. This domino effect of dysfunction can cause low back and hip pain - as well as increase your risk of injury.



WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO FIX TIGHT HIPS?

You can reduce and even prevent hip pain with regular maintenance and care. 

* If you have a preexisting health condition or injury, ask your doctor or physical therapist before for the methods that are best for your situation.


Heat

  • External heat sources, like a sauna, hot pack, or hot bath or shower helps your muscles relax and decompress. Heating before myofascial release therapy and stretching helps you achieve even more effective treatment.

koa massage tools in the sauna

  • Be sure to properly warm up before any workout or physical activity. Increasing blood and lymph flow and sending fluids and hydration to your tissues before you begin placing a high demand on your body helps you get the most out of your training. 

Myofascial Release

Trigger point release and myofascial release massages are very effective at relaxing and decompressing tension in the lower back, hips, and glutes.

A skilled manual therapist can help you target the areas that need release and give you some at-home stretches and recommendations for your hip pain. 

The KOA Massage Tools are the best self-use myofascial release and massage tools that you can use anytime, anywhere to help release tension and pain and restore mobility and vitality in your myofascial tissues. 

 

Myofascial massage helps:

  • Relax, decompress, and release tension 
  • Stretch and mobilize tissues
  • Increase blood flow and cellular hydration
  • Move our lactic acid and waste
  • Break down scar tissue

Try these techniques to release pain and tension in your hip flexors with the best myofascial release tools on the market:


Stretching

  • Stretching can reduce your risk for muscle tightness and pain. By extending your hips with gentle stretches, you can lengthen the hip flexor muscles and counteract some of the pain and stiffness caused by too much hip flexion.
  • Try these hip flexor stretches.

Pro Tips:

  • Stretch first thing in the morning - in your bed, if you’d like - to mobilize your myofascial tissues and get blood pumping throughout your body.
  • Always stretch at the beginning and end of every workout or training session.
  • Remember that stretches should be gentle and you should always ease into the stretch. If you feel any sharp pain or any discomfort beyond the feeling of a gentle stretch, stop. 


Postural Alignment

  • If your body’s alignment is off, it’ll cause other muscles and joints to compensate for the imbalance. This strains the muscle groups that are trying their best to stabilize the structural misalignment and causes inflammation, tension, and pain.
  • Use these posture correction techniques to identify and correct misalignments

 

 

Regular Movement 

  • Regular exercise keeps your myofascial tissues flexible and nourished. Choose any movements you enjoy, and do them often.
  • Get up and move around every hour or so if you sit at a desk for long periods of time. 

Pro tips: 

Set an hourly alarm to remind yourself to move

Drink extra water to induce regular restroom visits



Hydration

  • Your muscles, connective tissues, blood vessels, and cellular fluids require proper hydration in order to work properly. Dehydrated myofascial tissues can lead to restriction, dysfunction, and pain.
  • Aim for quality water and food intake that nourish your body and mind.
An athletic woman drinking water during her training break

TAKEAWAY

Most of us have tight hips, but we can ease the tension and pain with a healthy lifestyle and regular myofascial therapy, including using the KOA Massage tools, stretching, and exercise. 

See a trusted doctor or physical therapist if you have persistent pain in any area of your body so they can help you determine the root cause and best approach.

For best results, incorporate lifestyle modifications that help you reduce the stress and strain you’re placing on your hip flexors. Correct your sitting, standing, and sleeping posture, move around more, drink more water, manage your stress, and practice regular myofascial massage. Your body and mind will thank you!