Tight hips can be debilitating to your whole body. When the muscles are too tight in the hips, it can have a negative effect on your knees, lower back, and even the alignment of your shoulders.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke, over 80% of adults will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives (1). A large part of this comes from the fact that our hips are tight and they need some loosening up!
You can stretch, ice, and wait out your back pain, but the underlying cause will still exist.
Tight Hips And Low Back Pain
Tight, shortened hip flexors can tug on the lumbar spine of your lower back and as a result, the muscles will tighten up and you’ll feel pain. The psoas major and minor attach to the vertebrae of the lower spine, so if this muscle is tight and shortened, it can cause some serious pain.
Our hips become tight as a result of our lifestyle in modern-day society. We spend a huge chunk of our time sitting, whether it is at a desk, in a car, or on a couch in front of the television. As a result, this muscle remains in a shortened position for a good chunk of the day.
This muscle is very rarely stretched back to its original length, mainly because we aren’t aware that this is the cause of our pain.
However, the stretches outlined below, when performed on a regular basis, can help eliminate your back pain within a week, if not immediately. With stretching, remember to breathe deeply and ease into the stretches instead of pushing into them too vigorously.
1. Butterfly Stretch
This stretch targets the hip adductors, small muscles in your inner thighs near your groin. It will relax the hips, and therefore, the lower back.
- Sit on the ground with the bottom of your feet touching.
- Hold your feet and press your knees toward the ground.
- Lean forward if you can, keeping your back straight, to engage your back and gluteal muscles.
- Take long deep breaths for 30 seconds, and then return to starting position.
2. Pigeon Stretch
This stretch helps relieve an impinged piriformis and alleviates sciatic pain. It stretches deep into the glutes as well as the groin and psoas.
- Start in a downward-facing dog with your feet together.
- Draw in your left knee and turn it out to the left so that your left leg is bent and near-perpendicular to your right one. Lower both legs to the ground.
- Keep your right back leg extended straight behind you, and stabilize yourself with your elbows on the ground, or if you feel comfortable, fold your upper body forward and collapse over the left leg to a fully relaxed position.
- Stay in this position and hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
- Switch to the other side and repeat.
3. Cow Face Pose
This pose opens up the chest and shoulders, but it also stretches the hips if you choose to lean forward in the position.
- Start seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your arms resting at your sides.
- Bend your knees, and bring your left foot underneath your right knee, sliding it to the outside of your right hip.
- Stack your right knee directly on top of the left, and then slide your right foot to the outside of your left hip. Shift your weight slightly from side to side until you are sitting evenly on your sit bones.
- Extend your left arm up toward the ceiling, and then bend it, bringing your left hand to your spine.
- Internally rotate your right arm, and then bend your right elbow and bring your right hand up to the centre of your back. If possible, hook the fingers of both hands.
- Keep your back straight, and fold your body forward so you feel a stretch in your hips.
- Breathe deep for 30-60 seconds, and then release. Now do the other side.
4. Supine Groin Stretch
This stretch returns your pelvis to a neutral position and the muscles around your pelvis to learn to hold it there.
- Laying on the floor, place one knee over a chair or block. Your arms should be at your sides with your palm up.
- The foot on the floor should be propped up with a heavy object like a door jam or a kettle bell.
- Lay here and relax for 5 minutes and after 5 minutes, try flexing your thigh muscles. You’re wanting to feel the contraction higher up in the hip area of the leg, instead of the knee.
- You may need to sit here for a while, but over time it will get easier. The video above explains this a little better.
5. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Lunge forward with one knee on a padded mat. Position your foot beyond the forward knee and place your hands on your knee.
- Straighten the hip of the rear leg by pushing your hips forward.
- Hold the stretch for 4-5 deep breaths, and then repeat on the opposite side.
6. Happy Baby Pose
This pose releases the lower back and sacrum and opens the hips, inner thighs, and groin. It stretches and soothes the spine, and helps relieve lower back pain.
- Lay on your back, bringing both knees into the chest. Bring the arms through the insides of the knees and hold onto the outside edge of each foot (pinkie toe side) with each hand.
- Tuck your chin into your chest with your head on the floor. Press your heels up and pull back with the arms.
- Press your shoulders and back of the neck down into the floor, trying to get the back and whole spine flat to the floor. Open the legs a bit wider if you want a deeper stretch.
- Hold for 4-8 deep breathes, and then exhale and release your arms and legs to the floor.
7. Frog Pose
This is a very intense stretch, so be gentle with yourself when going into it. This pose stretches out your inner thighs, groin, and hips.
- In a tabletop position, slide your knees wide until you feel a stretch. Turn your flexed feet outward, inner arches toward the ground.
- With your shoulders over your elbows, place your weight throughout your forearms and hands. Your wrists can stay in front of the elbows or form a triangle for support.
- Relax and allow your hips to be heavy. Utilize gravity to guide your pubic bone downward.
- Lengthen your spine by imagining a string is pulling the top of your head forward. Imagine your shoulders are being pulled down the spine, and away from your neck. Pull your tailbone toward the heels.
8. Psoas Stretch on Foam Roller
This is a passive relaxing psoas stretch that reduces tension in the hips.
- Place the foam roller perpendicular to your spine and lay with your sacrum (the back of your pelvis, not your spine) on the roller.
- Pull your right knee toward your chest, keeping your left heel on the ground. You should feel a stretch on the front of your left hip.
- To increase this stretch, reach your left arm over your head and open your knee slightly out to the right.
- Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch legs.
9. Supine Piriformis Stretch
A piriformis targeted stretch that is commonly used to help treat sciatic nerve pain, hip pain, back pain and knee pain.
- Lay on your back with your legs flat.
- Pull the affected leg toward the chest, holding the knee with the hand on the same side of the body and grabbing the ankle with the other hand.
- Pull the knee towards the opposite shoulder until stretch is felt.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly return to starting position.
10. Figure Four Stretch
A great stretch for the glutes and outer hip tightness.
- Laying on the ground on your back, cross the affected leg over the other with the ankle resting on the opposite knee.
- Reach and connect your hands behind the hamstring of the non-bent side.
- Gently pull the hamstring towards your belly and feel a stretch to the opposite side on the affected leg.
- Breathe deep, hold for 60 seconds, and release.