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The hip flexors are a group of muscles that attach to the femur and the pelvic girdle -- the thighs and hips. These muscles help to flex the thigh upward and outward when the knee is bent. A sedentary lifestyle or long periods of sitting can cause the hip flexors to shorten, resulting in hip, leg and back pain. Stretching and massage can help to loosen these muscles, decreasing pain and increasing flexibility.
Stretch the hip flexors. Kneel on one knee, with the other foot flat on the floor and the knee bent. Place your hands on the bent knee and slowly lean forward until you feel stretching in your thigh. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat it on the other side.
Improve range of motion with hip rotations. Lie on the floor on one side with your legs extended straight out. Bend your lower knee to form a 90-degree angle. Slowly lift your top leg while pointing your toes, then rotate the leg forward and backward, keeping your leg straight.
Massage areas where you feel tension. A massage cane, which is curved and knotted for easy access to all areas of the body, can help you apply pressure correctly. If you locate a muscle knot along your hips, apply pressure to the knot while relaxing the muscles around it. You may need to repeat the procedure over several days for the muscle to fully loosen.
Use a foam roller to loosen and stretch the muscle. Put the roller under your hip flexor and slowly roll back and forth on it, using your hands or forearms to steady yourself. Roll the muscle for two minutes, stopping and applying pressure to tender areas.
- Applying alternating hot and cold packs -- 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off -- can help increase circulation to the area. This often speeds recovery time if you have a muscle injury, and can augment the effectiveness of massage and stretching.