It's all in the hips. Stretches to relieve pain and restore natural mobility.
For better or worse, the joints in your body adapt to positions they are continually exposed to. Think about the amount of time you spend driving to and from work, sitting at a desk, and watching TV or reading at night. Most of us spend over 9 hours a day in a seated position. While I'm certainly not against the use of chairs, it's hard to deny the effects that prolonged sitting has on joint mobility. When your body is in an upright seated posture, over time your hip flexors (psoas and iliacus) and hip extensors (hamstrings) tighten, causing your hips to pull away from a neutral position. What's worse, the problem isn't limited to your hips. Tight hip joints can also lead to a condition known as a pelvic tilt. Even a slight pelvic tilt puts excess strain on the lower back, knees, and ankles as they find themselves being pulled away from a natural posture.
When your hips are out of whack, simple movements such as picking up, sitting down, or walking become impaired due to improper mechanics initiating at the hips. Provided this information, you might find it hardly surprising that over the last 10 years there's been a threefold increase in hip and knee replacements among baby boomers. If you're no stranger to hip, low back, or knee pain and want to avoid becoming a statistic, I have a few fixes to help relieve the symptoms of chronic sitting. The below stretches can be done at home and will target the muscles and joints in your hips to help restore impaired mobility and get you moving the right way.
Note: Unless stated otherwise, hold each of these positions for 1 minute. Remember to control your breathing and RELAX....deep inhale, deep exhale. If you find yourself forcing a stretch or experiencing a lot of pain, reset your positioning and allow your body to slowly relax into the pose.
Wall hamstring stretch with strap - find a wall corner and lie down with one leg extended straight out and the other extended upwards against the wall. Ideally, you want your glutes to be touching the wall but if your range is limited you may have to scoot back a bit. Once in position, bend your knee and position a strap (a band or belt will also work) in the middle of your foot and extend upwards. Lightly hold onto the strap as it keeps your knee in an extended position.
Wall Hip Opener - start in a lying position with your glutes touching the wall and both feet extended together. Slowly allow your hips to open and extend your legs outward, keeping your knees straight (minimal to no bend). If your glutes are coming off the floor try to shimmy your heels further down the wall towards you. Hold this position for 2 minutes.
Lying wall squat - from a lying position, pull your knees toward your chest and place your heels flat against the wall, opening your hips as much as possible. If you find yourself on the balls of your feet, walk further up the wall till you're supported on a full foot and evenly balanced with your heels.
Lying cross leg hip opener - starting from the position above in the lying wall squat, cross one leg over the opposite knee and allow your hip to slowly peel open. If your range is limited move back a few inches from the wall.
Couch stretch - this is by far one of the best hip flexor stretches out there, an area that typically is tight due to prolonged sitting. Placing your back knee as far back on the sitting portion of the couch as possible, keep your chest upright and tighten your core. As you slowly relax into this stretch, periodically squeeze your glutes to extend the range a little further.
Lunge stretch - from a standing position, take a big step forward with one foot and slowly place your knee and foot of trailing foot against the mat, extending both arms on the inside of your hip. Remember to maintain a straight back by actively pushing your hands to the floor and sticking your chest out.
Pigeon pose - keeping your hips square with the front of the mat, cross one leg in front of you and extend your trailing leg in line with your hips. Lengthen through your spine and slowly move your inner thighs away from each other.
Seated butterfly - from a seated position, lightly press your feet together and use your arms to help lift your chest out. Elongate your torso as you begin to relax into this position.
Thigh over thigh twist - from a lying position, cross one leg and use the opposite arm to lightly pull down on your knee. Extend your other arm out to your side and turn your head towards the open palm.
Lying hip crossover - two photos below...the first one is the setup for the final pose. From a lying position, bend both knees toward your chest and cross one leg over the opposite knee. Hang out in this position for 30 seconds until you get situated and feel your hips and glutes slowly beginning to open. Once there, slowly tilt sideways until the foot of the crossed leg is planted flat on the floor. Taking slow, controlled breaths, allow the knee of the crossed leg to gently open outwards.
Cobra - pressing your hands into the ground, broaden your collarbones and lift up your chest. Ground your legs as your pelvis and chest rise up and your head arcs back.
Kneeling hip opener - to say that I hate this stretch is an understatement, but you'd be hard pressed to find one more effective at stretching your hip adductors. I recommend completing all preceding stretches prior to doing this one as it's a bit more intense. Fold your mat at both ends and extend your knees outward as far as possible, keeping your shins as vertical as possible (not pointed toward your body). Supporting yourself on both elbows, gently pull your hips toward your feet. Hold this position for 2 minutes.
Bow Pose - starting on your stomach, slowly lift your legs followed by your head and chest, allowing your arms to extend. Lift your thighs upward into your hamstrings and arch your chest forward and upward. If you have difficulty in this pose a band or strap can also be used.