The following is a special guest post by one of our providers, Dr. Nick Askey. Here Dr. Askey discusses the importance of hip mobility, how our hips are made to move, and why you should do your squats!
A large percentage of the body’s mass is centered on muscles that are connected to the hip. This means these muscles need to be both strong and flexible to withstand daily wear and tear and quickly recover from injuries.
Unfortunately, our “desk jockey” lifestyle today creates an imbalance of power between the hip flexors and the hip extensors/stabilizers. We spend an average of 9 hours a day sitting. This sedentary lifestyle, without stretches and exercises to offset the negative effects, leads to weakness in the glutes and a power imbalance in the hip flexors. If you’re not careful, you could easily sustain an injury while doing even the most mundane tasks.
Why Sitting Hurts
The major muscles used in our hips are the psoas (hip flexors) and glutes. Any weakness or imbalance in these muscles can severely limit your mobility and cause pain. This is part of the reason why our hips, low back, and knees are extremely susceptible to injury.
Tight Hip Flexors
The psoas attaches to the front of the lowest 5 or 6 segments in the spine and descends to attach to the front of the hip. During movement, the psoas activates to flex the hip by bringing the knee up toward the chest while extending the lower 5 or 6 segments of the low back.
When we’re sitting, our hips are flexed, which shorten the psoas. When we sit for long periods of time, it is essentially locking our hips into flexion and our low back into a swaybacked and extended position.
On the opposite side of the hip flexors, connected to the back of our pelvic bone and femur, sit the glutes. They consist of three layers of muscle and were designed to extend and stabilize the hip, allowing us to do things like sprint, squat, and lift heavy objects. They were not meant to be laminated together at one hundred degrees against an office chair or couch for upwards of eight hours a day.
This tension put on the flexors can make movements like getting out of a chair difficult and painful. It may also hurt for you to lay on your back with your legs straight because the tension on these muscles also puts pressure on the low back and articulating joints. If you’re sitting for hours every day, your hips will become less flexible than your spine. Eventually, your spine will be pulled in any direction your hips decide to take it.
How to Improve Hip Mobility
We need to work on our hip mobility daily. If you watch television, update your Facebook status, and practice countless other relatively unproductive habits daily, get into the habit of stretching your hips while you’re doing these otherwise stationary tasks. Your hip mobility will gradually improve if you take these small steps to stay active even when you’re not working out.
How can squats test and ultimately improve your hip mobility? Squatting should consist of nothing more than flexion and external rotation about the hip joint. Any deviation from those two movements will wreck your low back and knees. If you lack true hip mobility, the body will use your low back to complete the squat instead: through lumbar flexion and rotation. This is a common source of low back injury, especially for a lumbar disc herniation. The body may also use the knees impractically, like bending them inward and creating medial knee deviation, which is a very common cause of acute knee injuries. To simulate poor hip mobility, just picture trying to put on a pair of socks or squat in extremely tight skinny jeans.
If you want to keep doing the things you love, without pain, improve your hip and ankle mobility to prevent an injury.
If you or someone you know is having issues with their legs, knees, or hips, give Airrosti a call. We can help find the root cause of your injury, treat it quickly and efficiently, and give you customized at-home exercises that can further help you by strengthening your body and promote proper mobility.
Get your hips moving people, do your squats (lots of them) and live a long healthy life.
Read our Medical Disclaimer here.