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Tight Hip Flexors Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Product Recommendations

Whenever you have back pain, it makes sense for you to focus your treatment on your back, just as you would focus on your arm if your arm hurts.

However, you need to remember that your body is a connected whole; so, you need to consider that other factors might be contributing to your back pain.

One such factor to consider is a tight hip flexor. 

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In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about tight hip flexors back pain – from its causes, symptoms, and treatment, and we also offer product recommendations that may help ease the pain you’re feeling. 

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Let’s dive in!

What Are Hip Flexors?

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that is responsible for flexing the hip or bringing the leg upward toward the body.

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The primary hip flexors are the psoas major and the iliacus, which are collectively called the iliopsoas.

The iliopsoas works to stabilize the trunk during activities such as pushing, pulling, and lifting.

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The iliopsoas also draws the knees toward the chest. 

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Hip flexors are located on the front top part of your thigh in the pelvic area.

It is because of the hip flexors that you can flex your hips and bend your knees to your hips.

They are important to keep the posterior pelvic muscles in balance.

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Every time you take a step, you are using your hip flexor muscles.

Sitting too long or all day shortens and tightens these muscles.

Short muscles do not generate as much power as lengthened muscles.

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When you go to activate these muscles, they might resist or not work as they should.

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Sitting all day, particularly with habitually poor posture, can cause tight hip flexors and back pain as well as a condition called hyperlordosis.

This condition is also called swayback or saddleback and happens when the inward curve of your spine in the lower back is exaggerated.

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The Hip Flexor Muscle Group.

The hip flexor includes the following: 

  • Iliopsoas muscle. The iliopsoas is actually two different muscles that help stabilize the lower back: the psoas muscle and the iliacus muscle. The psoas muscle runs from the lumbar spine (lower back), through the pelvis, and attaches to the femur (thigh bone). The iliacus muscle attaches the pelvis to the femur and is used to rotate the thigh.
  • Rectus femoris muscle. The rectus femoris attaches the pelvis to the knee. It is also the quad muscle that is used when performing squats or lunges.
  • Sartorius muscle. Also running from the pelvis to the knee, the sartorius muscle is used to flex the knee and leg.
  • Pectineus muscle. More commonly known as the groin muscle, the pectineus is used in hip flexion. It is also used for thigh rotation and adduction.

Together these muscles produce flexion, movement, and the tightening of muscles that allow for flexing of the hip joint.

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They also help to stabilize the spine.

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Tight Hip Flexors Back Pain: What’s the Connection?

So, tight hip flexors and back pain – how are they connected?

Your psoas (one of the main muscles in your hip flexor) is directly connected to your femur and your lumbar vertebrae (your lower back).

While lower back pain isn’t always connected to your hips, tight hip flexors can certainly cause lower back pain as well.

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The tightness in the hip flexors can alter the alignment of your pelvis;

this affects the way your spine lines up and can cause tight hip flexors and back pain.

In addition to muscle tightness in the hips, stiff hip joints can lead to lower back pain.

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If you can’t flex or extend your hip forwards or backward, it can affect your walking, running, and twisting motions which in turn, can increase mechanical strain on your lower back leading to back pain. 

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What Causes Tight Hip Flexors?

While sitting is not good for the hip flexors, you can also injure them while being physically active.

A hip flexor injury can occur because of overstretching and overuse, which can limit your movement.

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Some common causes of tight hip flexor back pain include:

  • Postural Issues. Sitting too long or all day shortens and tightens these hip flexors. This condition is a common problem with people who sit for many hours daily (i.e. anyone who sits at a desk for hours each day). Shortened muscles are unable to generate as much power as lengthened muscles, which can lead to functional problems. 
  • Injuries. Athletic injuries to the hip flexors can also cause it to tighten. Some athletes are more prone to tight hip flexors. Runners use the hip flexors, especially the iliopsoas, to lift the leg up with each stride. This repeated shortening of the muscle isn’t compensated for by a lengthening movement. Runners often end up with tight hip flexors for this reason.
  • Weak Core. Having a weak core can also be an issue that contributes to tight hip flexors. Because these muscles are connected to and stabilize the spine, they often take over when the core is not strong. This can lead to tightening and pain.

Signs and Symptoms of Tight Hip Flexors

So, what are the signs and symptoms of tight hip flexors? 

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The biggest sign is that these muscles just feel tight.

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You try to stretch them and they don’t move much.

However, there are other signs and symptoms too.

Tight hip flexors can affect several other areas of your body, so you might also experience: 

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  • Tightness or an ache in your lower back, especially when standing
  • Poor posture and difficulty standing up straight
  • Neck tightness and pain
  • Pain in the glutes

You can also do a test to check for tight hip flexors.

How? 

  • Lie down on your back on a table or bench. 
  • Pull one knee up toward your chest and hold it there. 
  • Let the other leg relax downward over the edge of the table. 

It helps here to have someone hold that leg for you so you can do it slowly.

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If your hip flexors are fine you should be able to fully extend the thigh so it’s parallel to the floor and bend the knee to 90 degrees without the thigh rising up.

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Any difficulty with these movements indicates tight hip flexor muscles.

Exercises to Help Tight Hip Flexors Back Pain

To avoid tight hip flexor back pain, you can do your best to avoid some of the causes listed above.

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However, they’re not all completely avoidable. 

So, you’ll also have to stretch your hip flexors regularly and strengthen your abdominals, thighs, quads, and glutes.

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These preventative measures are even more important if you find yourself sitting for extended periods or you’re an avid runner.

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Here, we list down some exercises to help you stretch your hip flexors and loosen up your hip joint for more mobility and less pain in your lower back. 

  1. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Hold onto the wall or a chair for support, bend your right knee as if you were kicking your bum, and grab your right ankle with your right hand. 
  3. Keep your hips square and work to tuck your bum to feel a deep stretch h in your right hip flexor and thigh. 
  4. Hold for 30 seconds before switching to the other side. 
  1. Come down to kneel on your right knee with your left foot planted in front of you. Your left ankle and knees should create a 90-degree angle with your knee right above your ankle. 
  2. Gently tilt your hips under to increase the stretch in your right hip flexor. 
  3. Untuck your hips and repeat 10 times before switching to the other side. 
  1. Start seated with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. The space between your legs should make a diamond-like shape.
  2. Sit up tall and relax through your hips, keeping your thighs heavy and drawing towards the ground.
  3. Keep your hip bones on the ground, and lean forward to increase the stretch.
  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. 
  2. Allow your knees to splay open, finding a deep stretch in your hips and inner thigh. 
  3. Allow your lower back to naturally lift slightly off the ground and breathe deeply to relax your hips into the stretch. 
  1. Start in a low lunge with your right foot forward, planted firmly in the ground and your left leg extended behind with your knee on the ground. 
  2. Plant your hands on either side of your front leg for support. 
  3. Press into the top of your left foot to feel a deep stretch in your left hip flexor. 

To strengthen your lower back and hips – and to avoid tight hip flexors and back pain – try doing exercises such as glute bridges, reclined leg raises, and mountain climbers.

These exercises work to improve your lower back and hip pain by strengthening the muscles around them and taking some of the pressure off.

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For example, a strong core is key to supporting your lower back.

By practicing stability exercises that strengthen your core, you’ll be less likely to dump as much weight into your lower back and hips.

Hip Flexors and Trigger Points: How to Massage Hip Flexor Trigger Points

Microspasms or trigger points often develop in the overused/tight muscles like the hip flexors.

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Releasing the trigger points before stretching a tight muscle can lead to greater improvements in the range of motion.

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To restore tight hip flexors to the proper length, start by eliminating the trigger points (micro spasms in the muscle) with a medicine ball.

A softer volleyball or a basketball can also be used.

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To release the right hip flexor:

  1. Assume a prone position on the toes and forearms. The shoulders should be over the elbows and the feet placed wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  1. Place the medicine ball under the hip joint and just inside the iliac crest (hip bone) of the pelvis. You can control how much pressure is applied by distributing more or less weight onto the left foot. 
  2. Maintaining a neutral spine, turn the right toe out and roll the ball slowly down towards the thigh. 
  1. When you feel a burning sensation or find a place where the muscle does not conform well to the ball, stop and hold that position for 30 – 90 seconds or until the trigger point is released (muscle relaxes). 
  1. Continue rolling downward toward the thigh or inward or outward releasing any other trigger points. Repeat on the other side.

After releasing the trigger points, perform a static hip flexor stretch to increase the range of motion.

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Tight Hip Flexors Back Pain Treatment

Oftentimes, knowing how to prevent tight hip flexor back pain is the best tool a person has for treatment.

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It is important to maintain hip flexor flexibility as hip flexor strain can often “domino” into tight hamstrings and ultimately lower back pain. 

You can try the exercises listed above to help you avoid tight hip flexors or improve your lower back and hip pain by strengthening the muscles around them and taking some of the pressure off.

You can also try to massage the hip flexor trigger points as outlined above as well. 

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If you are already suffering from hip flexor pain, you may want to see a chiropractor or physiotherapist.

It’s best to work with a chiropractor or physiotherapist who can offer a personalized treatment plan based on your activity levels and concerns. 

Aside from exercises, the following tight hip flexor back pain products can get you started on the path to recovery.

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Tight Hip Flexors Back Pain Products

If you’re looking for products that you can use to alleviate tight hip flexor back pain, here are some of our top recommendations:

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The PSO-Rite is the most revolutionary self-care mobility massage and muscle release tool of our time.

The psoas complex (hip flexors) is considered to be the soul of our body.

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They regulate our fight-or-flight response, support our digestive organs, regulate our breathing, and aid in pumping blood and lymph through our body.

The special design of this brace helps relieve pain and promote faster recovery from any kind of groin, quad, hip, sciatica, or hamstring injury.

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This compression wrap restores everyday movement and mobility, decreasing tension on the muscles by providing stability and warmth.

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Increased blood flow reduces recovery time through soothing compression relief to the pain overall.

This unique exercise ball gets to pressure points in your muscles and stressed tissues of the body to provide relief from backaches and reduce pain significantly.

It also reduces tension, inflammation, and strain on soft tissue, muscle knots, and trigger points.

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Designed by a renowned orthopedist to ease pain from arthritis and post-surgery inflammation.

The ice pack hugs the hip with one strap around the waist and one around your leg.

The extra compression from this provides a deeper, more intense cooling experience.

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The Bottom Line

The hip flexors are a group of muscles located on the front top part of your thigh in the pelvic area.

Advertisement

It is because of the hip flexors that you can flex your hips and bend your knees to your hips.

They are important to keep the posterior pelvic muscles in balance. 

Advertisement

The tightness in the hip flexors can alter the alignment of your pelvis;

this affects the way your spine lines up and can cause tight hip flexors and back pain.

Advertisement

Other causes of tight hip flexor back pain may include postural issues, injuries, and having a weak core. 

Advertisement

The biggest sign of tight hip flexors back pain is that your hip flexors muscles just feel tight.

You might also experience tightness or an ache in your lower back, especially when standing, difficulty standing up straight, neck tightness and pain, and pain in the glutes. 

To avoid tight hip flexor back pain (or to alleviate the pain if you already have it), you can try certain exercises, such as the standing hip flexor stretch, kneeling hip tucks, and low lunge variations.

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You can also massage hip flexor trigger points, and try the products listed above.

You may also want to consult a chiropractor or physiotherapist who can offer a personalized treatment plan based on your activity levels and concerns. 

Disclaimer: The information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All information contained on this website is for general information purposes only.

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