Feeling tight after work? Maybe even after a tough training session? There are a couple of muscles that tend to escape regular movement in our daily activities and training, unless we specifically address them. Check out these movements to see if you could benefit from adding them to your routine.
Heard the expression that "sitting is the new smoking"? To some degree, this statement is controversial. The idea has more to do with keeping a similar position for prolonged periods and being more sedentary than we should be. However, being seated for long periods does keep our hips in a flexed position and most of us can benefit from regular stretching and strengthening of our hip flexors and achieving more hip extension regularly.
Keep in mind that although your hip flexors, or the front of your hip area, may "feel" tight - this sensation can come from a variety of causes and does not necessarily guarantee that it is just from tightness. If you regularly stretch your hip flexors and the sensation of tightness persists, it's unlikely that tightness is the issue. You may want to try hip flexor strengthening activities instead, or consider an assessment or consultation with a professional.
With these things in mind, check out this video for some hip flexor movements and variations.
The next muscle we will address is called the quadratus lumborum, or commonly called the "QL". This muscle is often stiff or in a state of spasm when you experience back pain. It travels from the bottom of your ribcage to your pelvis in your low back.
As mentioned, there are some motions that are just not as commonly performed or necessary in life. One example of this is trunk movement. We are often taught to keep our back and spine in a "neutral" position when lifting for safety. While this is definitely an important concept in many contexts, it often falsely translates to every day activities when we aren't lifting. This can lead to stiffness and weakness within the core and trunk muscles because they are never utilized in their full range of motion. In this situation, the tissues, fascia, and muscles can begin to "densify" and lose the ability to slide effectively past one another.
One way we can combat this is by making an active effort to incorporate movements into our training that challenges these muscles. Check out this video for different ways to stretch the QL, while simultaneously opening up the ribs and moving the often neglected trunk muscles:
The 3rd and final muscle we will discuss is called the piriformis. This relatively small muscle lies deep within the hip and even has a diagnosis affectionately named "piriformis syndrome" in it's honor. The idea with piriformis syndrome is that this small muscle lies directly over the large sciatic nerve. In a small portion of the population, the nerve actually travels right THROUGH the piriformis muscle. If you've ever heard of the umbrella term "sciatica", this condition refers to irritation or symptomatic sciatic nerve presentation from some cause. One such "cause" can be excessive compression or irritation due to a tight or inflammed piriformis muscle (aka piriformis syndrome).
Both piriformis syndrome and sciatica can have a variety of causes and if you believe you are showing symptoms of either, you would likely benefit from a formal assessment by a professional for treatment. However, trying various stretches of the piriformis muscle and deep hip muscles can be a good place to start and can be helpful for temporary symptom relief until the true cause is identified. Check out this video for different options. All of these variations are aimed at doing the same thing, so feel free to play with the differences and find what feels best for you.
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