Fix Hip Flexor Tightness While Pregnant

Aches and pains while pregnant are common. But it doesn’t mean you have to passively live with the worst of it for your entire pregnancy.

The most frequent musculoskeletal complaints during pregnancy are:

  • Low back pain 70.7%
  • Hand–wrist pain 33.2%
  • Hip pain 32.1%.

Let's start with one element: Hip Pain.

Often, low back pain can be caused by tight hip flexors.

Say whaat?

Yep, the psoas muscle (not to be confused with the word pizazz! ) is responsible for this. Essentially, two muscles join as one in this space. The primary “hip flexor” muscle connects the top of our hip to the low back. This means that sometimes low back pain can be caused by a tight hip flexor.

Here's another way of looking at it:

If your psoas is tight (which most of ours are) it can pull on the low back causing low back pain.

But not to fear!

Gentle rotations can help prevent the hip flexor from getting tight and refer pain down to the hip. Move your back through dance, the cat/neutral position in yoga, swimming,

Keep this muscle loose and incorporate stretches into your daily routine. It can really help relieve back pain! (insert pic of runner’s lunge, hip FLe stretch).

The iliopsoas is a thick, deep muscle. For the muscle to truly elongate, it's important to hold your stretch for at least a minute. 

Quick tip 1: 

If your car has bucket seats, it’s really not good for this muscle! You want your hips to be slightly above your knees when sitting. So, if you have bucket seats, consider adjusting the angle with a towel roll or pillow wedge.

Quick tip 2: 

The iliopsoas muscle gets really tight in runners.  Running involves more hip flexion than would normally occur with walking. Runners drive their legs toward the ground a lot of force. So, to avoid this, shorten your stride a little when running.  

Quick tip 3: 

The iliopsoas muscle also helps straighten and support the upper body (which, when pregnant, can be a harder job to do than it’s used to, given that it has more to manage) and turns the thigh outward.

The iliopsoas muscle helps straighten and support the upper body. Which, when pregnant, can be a harder job to do than it’s used to, given that it has more to manage. This turns the thigh outward.

Tight muscles are weak muscles. Here are some movements you can do to strengthen in and around your mid-region:

  1. Bridges. I’m a stickler for rolling up and down with slow control, as that will activate your multifidi muscles better. These muscles are like a braid. They connect each vertebra to one another.
  2. Side steps and backward walking. This will engage your glutes.
  3. Cranks. These work your hip flexor muscles + the smaller rotational muscles at the same time.

Be Careful!

If your hip pain is persistent. Or perhaps you had some hip pain before you were pregnant, and now it’s just exacerbated by the extra pressure. Then it could be hip impingement or a labral tear. Or even transient osteoporosis that’s bothering you. If you suspect this is the case, then I usually recommend that pregnant mothers wait at least a few months until postpartum to get any imaging or a full assessment to see if this is true. Always express your concerns to your doctor, though! 

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