If you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from an achy back chances are your hip flexors are uber tight. Almost every activity of our daily living is done on the sagittal plane (forward and backward): sitting, walking, running. These movements cause our hip flexors (located on the front of your hips) to tighten up and cause back pain that can be very painful.
Here's a bit of anatomy for you in very simple terms: The hip flexors, known as the psoas minor and major, originate at the lumbar spine (L1-L5) and insert onto the front of your thigh on your femur bone. Since this muscle runs from the lower back to the front of your thigh we see how it can cause back pain--as it shortens it pulls your lumbar spine into a forward (anterior) tilt and I lovingly refer to this as 'crunching your back'. Ouch.
We can all benefit from a juicy hip flexor stretch. Here's how:
1. Standing: place your right foot in front, left foot behind you in a lunge. Gently push your hips forward as far as you can until you can feel the stretch on the front of your left thigh.
2. Kneeling: Place your right foot in front, left knee on the floor. Gently kneel into the right leg making sure your knee stays behind your toes (aim to have a 90 degree angle with the right leg). Now here is the key: tuck your tailbone under. Many people will struggle to find this position and end up with their bums in the air wondering why they can't feel the stretch or feel it in the back of their right thigh--if this is you try this stretch while holding onto a chair for balance. As you improve you can put your hands on the top of your thigh or even on the floor.
Hold each side for at least 30 seconds and repeat as often as needed.