Hip Flexor Stretch

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Who:

People who sit, run, bike, or spend a lot of time bent over. People with back pain, hip pain, buttock pain.

What:

Muscles that flex the hip: Psoas Major, Iliacus, Rectus Femoris, Tensor Fasciae Latae, Gluteus Medius and Minimus, Sartorius, and the Adductor group. Continue reading

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Bending Down

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As discussed in previous posts “Sitting in Chairs” and “Hamstring Stretch,” many people spend a lot of time with a rounded back. It’s hard to think of an occupation that doesn’t require continuous bending over throughout the day. Whether you sit or stand at a desk, perform physical labor, look after small children, play sports—most activities induce you to lean forward at some point in some way. While there’s nothing wrong with this, the act of bending forward or hunching over is often the cause of chronic pain for people who have been doing it the same way for a long, long time. I’m going to share a few ways to help change things up and give your sad back muscles a break. Continue reading

Plantar fasciitis

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It’s easy to find out what plantar fasciitis is by just googling it, but it can be difficult to wade through the multitude of devices, orthotics, medications, exercises, and other means by which people attempt to alleviate their foot pain. I’m going to share with you some of what I find to be the most impactful tools for plantar fasciitis pain. They tend to be great to use for the majority of musculoskeletal conditions from the feet to the hips (barring tendon ruptures and bone fractures), but it’s always best to get the opinion of your health care provider if you aren’t sure whether something is safe for you to do. Continue reading

Hamstring Stretch

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The hamstrings attach to and help support your pelvis. When you sit in a chair, they are taken out of the picture, so your back muscles have to hold your torso up. Especially if you end up slumped over, your back muscles will be working from a long position, while your hamstrings will be in a short position since your knees are bent, your pelvis is tilted down, and they are squished against the seat of the chair.

Muscles are like Goldilocks: they like their fibers not too long or too short, but just the right length for maximum contracting capability. So you can help both your back and hamstrings by giving them opportunities to work at their preferred lengths.

Since the back muscles are already long in this situation, there’s no need to strive for greater length by stretching them. Therefore, more benefit can come from focusing on lengthening the hamstrings and keeping the back muscles in a more neutral working position.

 

The backs of the legs are a pretty common place for people to stretch, but often when we bend over to touch our toes, we end up rounding our backs. However, we can get more from the stretch if we keep our backs flat–keeping the back muscles neutral and putting more of the lengthening action on the hamstrings. You can also think of it as sticking out your tailbone. If you don’t often practice bending with a flat back, it can be useful to have a mirror nearby to make sure you are doing what you think you are doing, especially since it can feel odd to stick your butt out like that.

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For this first stretch, stand with your feet hips width apart and bend down toward your toes as far as you can without rounding your back. Imagine your hips are big hinges and you want to keep the movement isolated to the rotation of these hinges. Try to keep your knees straight, even if it means you don’t bend very far at all. Remember, the goal isn’t to touch your toes, but to stretch your hamstrings. So there’s no reason to cheat by moving other body parts just so you can reach further to the floor.

 

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Lying on the ground is another way to keep your back flat. Using a strap, belt, or towel, pull your leg up slowly. This stretch is quite different because your hamstrings aren’t also busy helping you stand while they are being stretched. Make sure you keep the bottom leg resting completely flat against the floor.

DSC_0312Change things up by putting your heel up on a fence, table, or other structure at the right height for you and lean toward your leg. Keep both feet facing forward, but feel free to change the angle of your leg relative to your body in order to stretch different muscle fibers.

Notice that this person’s back is rounded, not flat. It’s fine to stretch with a rounded back, but know that you won’t be targeting the hamstrings as much. Try doing both to feel the difference in the stretch. It’s great to have a variety of ways to stretch so you’re not always lengthening the same muscle fibers.

As usual: stretch slowly, as long as feels appropriate to you, and do both sides, even if only one side is bothering you.

 

It makes a big difference to stretch these muscles when they are warm.  You can go on a walk with your dog first, or stretch them after a run, some laps in a pool, playing tag with your kids, or after a bike ride.

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Sitting in Chairs

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Most of us “know” that we ought to sit with “good posture,” but despite the ample opportunity for practice, we tend to allow ourselves to remain in more familiar positions, like crossing our legs and various forms of slouching. A couple reasons for this can be that we actually don’t know how we ought to sit differently, or it feels like too much effort to stay in good alignment for long especially when trying to concentrate on the task before us. If these excuses hold true for you as they have for me, then hopefully you will find some enlightenment in what I have to share. Continue reading

Adductor Stretch

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The adductors (muscles of the groin and inside of the thigh) are often left out when we think of self care for the hips and low back, but they are important hip flexors and stabilizers, heavily involved in holding us upright and allowing us to bend, squat, run, and jump with ease. Furthermore, they all attach to the pelvis, and when tight, their pull can affect alignment of all the surrounding tissues, including the back. Continue reading

Happy Feet, Happy Body

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Our feet are our foundation. Anything affecting their ability to function will have an effect higher up. So taking care of our feet is equivalent to caring for our whole body. I can summarize what I’ve learned so far about keeping feet healthy in two words: go barefoot. Continue reading

A Low Back and Hip stretch

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Stretching is an easy, simple way to maintain flexibility in soft tissue. Stretching won’t necessarily make pain in these areas go away, but it can help prevent pain from getting worse, and it is also useful to do in conjunction with massage or other bodywork to prolong the change created in the tissue. Continue reading