CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
I hope you can help me with a problem I have that keeps getting worse. The muscles that go between the top of my thighs to my waist on each side are very tight. It affects my posture and causes pain in my hips. I am not very active but I do walk some on the weekends. I am an office secretary and spend a lot of time sitting in front of my computer. I feel like I need to stretch, but am not sure how to go about it and don't want to do the wrong ones. -- Sandy
You are describing the hip flexors; tight hip flexors are extremely common in the running and cycling community because the movement they do is repetitious. No movement at all, however, can also wreak havoc with the body.
We are learning more each day how sitting for long periods can be detrimental to our health. People sitting in a chair for more than six hours a day increase their chances of increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels, and also open the door to hip and back issues.
Hip flexors are the muscles responsible for flexing the hip or drawing the knees to your chest, as well as moving your legs front to back and side to side. Habitual sitting causes the hip flexors to tighten and shorten, reducing the suppleness needed for a healthy hip joint.
Not that simple
The hip flexors are always singled out, but actually a group of muscles is to blame. They include the iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, tensor fasciae latae, adductor longus and brevis, pectineus and gracilis. Our muscles rely on and support others. No muscle is an island, so to speak, so you must come at these muscles from different angles to counteract the effect of sitting for hours on end.
The first and best thing to do as you work at your desk is to take a break at least once an hour. Get up and get out of that seated posture. Lift your chest, pull back your shoulders and head and lean back gently. This is extremely helpful to offset the position these muscles stay in as you sit.