The Importance of the Hip Flexor

HipFlexorIt’s an adage that has stood the test of time:

If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Is that ringing a bell with anyone? Growing up as a kid, do you remember those days when momma wasn’t happy? Or perhaps as an adult you’re living those days right now!

There’s no doubt in my mind that that saying evokes vivid memories of your (sweet) mother. Obviously we all know that if mom is upset, the day won’t be enjoyable for anyone, especially the party responsible for upsetting her. She’s the lead domino, and as the lead domino goes, so go the other dominoes.

When working with clients, I often use that saying when describing the hip flexor muscle, made up of the Psoas Major and the Iliacus muscles forming the Iliopsoas. As a quick anatomy lesson, the hip flexor is the only muscle in the body that connects to the upper-, middle-, and lower-body. It starts in the lumbar vertebrae, cuts down on top of, and attaches to, the pelvis, then crosses over the top of the femur and attaches to your inner thigh. It’s one of the most important muscles in the entire body and one that gets a great amount of attention at our Egoscue clinics.

The hip flexor can, and will, get too tight, too loose, too weak, too strong, or some combination of those traits. And, when the hip flexor becomes compromised, everything else in the body can, and will, get thrown off. Whether your pain is located at the hip, or somewhere else in they body, chances are the focal point needs to be the iliopsoas and how it’s functioning–or better yet, how it’s not functioning.

For the vast majority of us, we have become so sedentary, that our hip flexor begins to lose function and shut down. It becomes short and weak as we sit for eight, 10, sometimes 12 hours per day. However, most us realize the importance of movement and exercise, so after our long, sedentary day, we head off to the gym, or go for a quick run, or take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood.

But then it happens…your knee starts hurting, your back flares up, or you start to get “unexplainable” neck pain. Perhaps you get a case of plantar fasciitis. Maybe the diagnosis is hip bursitis. Whatever the symptom, no matter the diagnosis, the culprit is your lack of hip flexor function. It’s not your knee’s fault, and we can’t focus on your foot, neck, or back. Those are simply symptoms of a larger, underlying cause.

Basically, the iliopsoas is the “momma” of the body. And, remember, if she is upset, so is everyone else. When the iliopsoas shuts down, the rest of the body will be impacted. Because it attaches to the lumbar vertebrae, the spine and upper body will be impacted. With it attaching to the pelvis, the hip joint will be impacted. And, because it also attaches to the top of the femur, the lower body will be impacted. It truly is the driving force of the body. Remember what I said earlier: as the lead domino goes, so go the other dominoes.

We can’t forget that the foot bone is connected to the leg bone. If we keep that old song in mind when addressing your pain, we will get to the root cause. The site of the pain is rarely the source of the pain, and often times, the source of the pain is a compromised, dysfunctional iliopsoas!

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QUESTION: Are you focusing on the pain itself, or are you taking a look at the entire picture?