Anterior hip tightness is a common issue that has significantly increased in occurrence and severity over the past decade due to people spending more time sitting; whether it be on the couch or at a desk. When we sit, our hips are in relative “flexion,” meaning that the musculature of the front, or anterior, hip is in a shortened position. When muscles spend prolonged periods in a shortened position, they tend to want to stay that way, creating tightness and decreased flexibility. This decreased flexibility can negatively alter our alignment and posture when standing, and can affect the way we walk. This can contribute to a multitude of problems including, but not limited to, lower back pain and hip pain.
How do we know that our hips are tight?
One of the most basic tests to determine whether or not we possess tight hips is the Thomas test. To perform the Thomas test, lie down facing up at the edge of a table or bed so that one knee is hanging off the edge of the surface (this is the leg to be tested). Pull the knee of the opposite leg towards your chest. Make sure that you are in a stable position and that you will not lose your balance on the bed/table prior to drawing your knee to your chest. If pulling this knee to your chest causes your hanging leg to rise, the hip of the lower leg is most likely tight. If, while in this position, your lower leg is able to stay parallel with the floor or descend below parallel, the anterior musculature of that hip is not likely tight. Test both legs and note differences between the two.
I have tight hips, now what?
If we find that one or both of our hips are tight, we can easily turn our Thomas test into a stretch. By replicating the position for the Thomas test, gravity will cause there to be a stretch in the bottom/hanging leg. You can increase the intensity of the stretch by bending the knee of your hanging leg. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat up to 3 times for each hip that was found to be tight. In the beginning, this stretching program can be safely completed 3-5 times per week and over time can be completed every day. If for any reason this test or stretch causes pain, or compliance with this stretching program does not alleviate your back and/or hip discomfort, discontinue until further notice and feel free to contact one of our certified Physical Therapists for an evaluation. As always, you should consult your physician or physical therapist prior to starting any exercise program.