Do you have painful tight hips? Try these easy stretches and feel better
Are you struggling with tight hips after a long day sewing? It is more than likely that your muscles need stretching. I’ve put together a handy list of simple stretches to help ease that painful sensation, so you can enjoy the rest of your day.
Here’s why you have tight hips after sewing
We often say that we have tight hips to explain an ache at the end of a day of sewing. Your hip is really a joint that attaches your upper leg to your pelvis and though we think of it as one unit it's actually made up of many muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as bones. Your hip allows you the movement to lift your knees, swing your legs from side to side, and kick forward or backwards. It is a joint that bears a lot of weight when we move.
What we think of as having tight hips is more likely to be tightened muscles surrounding the hip bones. There are many of these muscles but let's just talk about a few here.
Hip flexor muscles
Your hip flexors are in the front of your body about where the front pockets of your jeans are. These become shortened and tightened when you sit for lengths of time as you do when you are sewing, knitting and enjoying other handicrafts.
Whether you are sitting at a desk, driving long distances, and you guessed it sitting at the sewing machine your hip flexors remain in a shortened position. Having your muscles constricted in this position causes them to tighten, which can lead to pain.
When you are lying down or standing these muscles are elongated. When you are seated they form a 90° angle between the pelvic girdle and the tops of your legs. This causes them to tighten and when muscles get tight they generally shorten if only temporarily.
Your quadricep muscles are at the front and side of your thigh and are four individual muscles. They attach your hip joint to your knee joint and contract to help you move your leg when you walk or run. When these become tightened or shortened for an extended period they can cause pain around your thigh, which can sometimes be caused by hip or knee aggravations.
We sit down on our glutes, our bottoms, a lot during the day, so it is important to understand how they affect our bodies. This muscle group start from the lower back, forming our cheeks and then flow down the side of our legs. Just like the hip flexors and the quadriceps they affect our hip movement. Tightening and shortening for extended periods of time can cause aches and pains.
Your hamstrings are located between the knee and the hip, they attach themselves to both ends across three muscles for each leg (bottom of the lower hip at your bottom and out towards the knee). They can be highly susceptible to injury, which is why you often hear football players and athletes complain of injuries in this area affecting their performance. Whilst you will feel mostly aches and pains in your legs with hamstring injuries the pain receptors in your body can also make you feel sensations of pain in your hip and knees.
Stretches for hip flexor muscles
Most hip flexor stretches are done on the floor with one knee on the floor and the other foot flat allowing one side of the body to lengthen. As you know with stretches for quilters we don't get on the floor of our sewing rooms!
A great option is stretching your hip flexors right at your sewing machine any time of the day. To do this all you need is your sewing chair, which you have already set to your perfect height.
It is extremely important if your chair has wheels to either lock the wheels or push your chair up against a wall, or your sewing table. This prevents movement during your exercise. You may find it safest to do this particular stretch on another chair or on your couch if you cannot prevent your sewing chair from moving.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Place one knee on the chair . Note: if right knee is on chair, it's the right hip flexor being stretched.
Your left foot is on the floor, ideally, flat on the floor but that may not always be the case.
Stand up nice and tall, roll your shoulders back have your eyes focus ahead.
Now squeeze the right bum cheek (rocket gluteal muscles bracket) and this will push that hip flexor forward enough to really feel the stretch.
As always I suggest you hold from 5 to 60 seconds meaning that if anything hurts that's your 5-second rule to stop what you're doing and regroup. Usually, 30 seconds is good but feel free to hold longer.
Once you are comfortable with the hip flexor stretch, this is also a great opportunity, to add a side bend. Reaching your arm up and over the top of your head, stretch towards the side where your foot is planted securely on the floor and hold.
Stretches for quadricep muscles
If you are finding that reaching behind to grab your foot is not as easy as it once was, try this modified version of the standard quadricep stretch. It also targets the hip flexor muscle.
Modified Quadricep Stetch
Stand at the edge of your sofa or in front of a chair with arms you can use for supoort.
Place your shin on the cushion behind you, as pictured above.
If it is an upholstered chair or sofa, by all means, remove your shoe.
If you are using a chair with a firm surface it's a good idea to leave your footwear on to provide some grip and traction against the smooth surface.
Stretches for gluteal muscles
When it comes to the muscles behind us and the muscles that run down the backs of our legs the two main areas to get tight are the gluteal muscles in your bottom and your hamstrings that run down the backs of the top of your legs. Our calf muscles also get tight when we're sitting.
For any of you Yogi's out there you will have done this move in various positions, whether it is lying on the floor, or an advanced version of thread the needle.
Piriformis and Glute Stretch
Sitting tall, bring one leg up and cross your ankle over the opposite thigh.
Keep your foot flexed (extended) to protect the knee from twisting.
To deepen the stretch, hinge forward from the waist, maintaining a straight back.
You may only need to go forward slightly to begin feeling the stretch intensify.
Hold from 5 to 60 seconds.
Stretches for hamstrings
Our hamstrings seem to always be tight no matter what we're doing, stretching them feels so good! There is a lot of variation for seated hamstring stretches depending on your current flexibility level and range of motion. Here’s one that I like to have people try.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Sitting forward in your chair, dig your heel into the floor with toes towards your nose.
Hinge forward from the hips. Your back should form a fairly straight line from the top of your head to your tailbone, as you move forward. Do not bend the spine.
Remember that if you have long arms and short legs you might be touching your toes right away and still not getting a great stretch, so as the old saying goes “it's all about the journey and not the destination” .
If you're finding it impossible to get anywhere near your toes you have a couple of options here. You can loop a tape measure, towel or something else to hold around the instep of your foot.
Another option is to place your foot on a low footstool and proceed with hinging at the waist with or without a strap to support your foot. The important thing is to only go as far as is comfortable for you. You should feel a stretch but not pain.
Bonus stretches: standing calf and achilles drop.
The backs of our lower legs known as our calves can get tight even if we're walking and active. If we are sitting for long periods of time with our calves locked in a similar position, this can cause aches and pains. The Standing Calf stretch is one way that really helps and you can do this at your ironing board while you wait for the iron to heat up.
Standing Calf stretch
Keep your body facing forward, back tall and upright
Place your right foot behind you
Keep your toes facing forward.
Keep your heel on the ground and lean forward with your right knee straight.
Do not let your front knee (left) extend past your toes.
Hold this position for 5-60 seconds, then swap legs.
Another version of a calf stretch is the Achilles heel drop.
This is a very intense stretch as we are using our body weight when we drop our heels.
Double/Bilateral heel drop
Choose a step with a bannister or handrails for support. To prevent falling and injury, be sure you are balanced correctly.
Stand at the edge of the bottom step facing up the stairs, legs straight, with just the front half of your foot on the stair.
Slowly lower your heels below the level of the step.
This stretch must be done in a slowly and controlled. Rapid movement may increase the risk of damage to the tendon.
Repeat with bent knees. Repeat the heel drop with your knees slightly bent to stretch both your calves and achilles in a somewhat different way.
This is stretch is also beneficial for plantar fasciatis and can improve ankle flexibility.
Remember these easy stretches for tight hips are designed to help
Easy stretches such as the ones we have covered today are designed to help improve your flexibility over time and prolong any aches and pains you have from sewing for extended periods. What they cannot do is stop the aches and pains of tight hips altogether. So please do think about your sewing room ergonomics (I have plenty of articles about this here) and remember to take lots of breaks during your sewing day to get up and get moving.
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