Back in September, I woke up your butt by talking about a real phenomenon called Dead Butt Syndrome.  A condition where your gluteal muscles – your butt muscles – forget what they are supposed provide strength and stability as you move. More often than not, Dead Butt Syndrome is closely related to tight hip muscles. Having taut muscles on the front side of the hip makes it more difficult to properly activate the gluteal muscles.

The reason why I want to refocus on the hip is because when it comes to strength, balance, posture, and mobility, your hips are the most important region of your body. The flexibility of your anterior hip muscles, known as your hip flexors, is central to proper function and freedom of movement.

The hip flexors are the muscles that lift your leg up when climbing stairs or getting in and out of the car. They also move your leg forward when taking a step or kicking a ball. The muscle group that performs these actions is called the iliopsoas and it consists of two muscles, the iliacus, and the psoas.

Both these muscles lie deep inside under the abdominal muscles.

The iliascus muscle originates on the front side of your pelvic bone, extends down and crosses the front of the hip, and attaches to your upper femur.  

The psoas originates from the edges of your lower spinal vertebrate, takes the same path down across the hip, and attaches to the upper femur. 

These two muscles work together to move the leg, flex the spine, and provide stability.

 

The psoas muscle is often referred to as the “mighty” psoas because this muscle can influence many aspects of our health. 

  • It is the only muscle that connects the upper and lower body so it keeps us physically whole. 
  • Because of its length and positioning in the body, it surrounds many organs in the lower abdomen, as well as the nerves and blood vessels. With every step we take, the psoas contracts and relaxes massaging our organs and stimulating blood flow. 
  • It is one of our “flight or fight’ muscles. When we are threatened or stressed, this muscle gets activated so we can be ready to run away or put up a fight. Additionally, it is the muscle that flexes our spine so we can curl up in a ball and protect ourselves. 
  • The upper portion connects to the diaphragm and is intricately involved with our breathing. 

Tension in the hip flexors is very common.  Two of the biggest culprits for tightness in this area are prolonged sitting and stress. How many of us spend hours sitting at our desk and/or stressed every day!

Tight hip flexors can, in turn, cause all sorts of problems in the everyday person, including:

  • Bad posture. When your iliopsoas muscles are tight, they can tip your pelvis forward, increasing the normal curve of the spine causing a “duck butt.”
  • Low back, hip, and/or knee pain. The tightness can cause compression in the joints of the spine and the hip joint as well as potentially entrapping spinal nerves which can create pain throughout the lower half of the body.
  • Balance and stability. Poor posture and loss of pelvic stability can lead to balance issues and increased risk of falls.
  • Increased anxiety. The activation of these “fight or flight muscles” perpetuates the sense of threat and fear leading to anxiety. 
  • Dead Butt Syndrome. Tightness in the hip flexor muscles makes it harder to activate the most powerful muscle in the body.

Unlocking these muscles:

  • Get up and move….I am sure this isn’t the first time you have heard me say this! Getting up and moving around every hour throughout the day is a must for preventing those muscles from locking up.
  • Dynamic stretching. Standing on one leg, while keeping your upper body still, swing the other leg like a pendulum forward and backward, side to side for a full minute. Switch and perform on the other leg.
  • Static hip stretch. With feet in a lunge position, slightly bend the front knee and drive the back hip forward.  I like to imagine a string attached to the front of my hip pulling it forward.  Be sure to keep your body up tall.  Hold for 15 seconds and repeat 3 times.
  • Work your gluts. Activating and strengthening our butt muscles will automatically turn off the hip flexor muscles and encourage relaxation.

The combination of tight hip flexors and weak glutes are probably the most common muscle imbalance that I see as a physical therapist. Stretching the iliopsoas and strengthening the glutes can bring critical balance back to that region and freedom of movement that will help you improve your overall health and regain that bounce missing from your step.

Susan Brady
is a Physical Therapist,
Nutrition Consultant and
Doctor of Integrative Medicine.
She has been treating women with osteoporosis for over 30 years and is dedicated to helping people achieve
lasting good health and vitality.

Want to learn more about how you can improve your bone health? Contact me for a free 15 minute phone consult to learn more about the BONES Method™ and how it can help you achieve strong, healthy bones for life!

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