If you feel tightness along the front of your hip, it may be because your hip flexors (primarily the iliopsoas) are weak, not tight. It is common to get accustomed to a remedy of massage and stretching when your body feels tight. These passive treatments can be effective when soft tissue has lost pliability and length. However, that feeling of “tightness” may be related to weakness.
One of your complex nervous system’s functions is to protect you. If you are doing a movement that you don’t have adequate strength for, your brain may signal your nerves to create muscular tension to protect your joint. This tension can feel like muscle tightness but is an underlying weakness issue.
Weakness in your hip flexors can occur over time, especially If you have a sedentary lifestyle where you sit (or stand) for long periods. This weakness may not be noticeable to you until you perform a task that requires adequate strength from these muscles.
Since the feeling of tightness can be the same for a relatively short or weak muscle, how do you know which condition you have? Thankfully, orthopedic tests have been discovered to evaluate and distinguish between the two.
How to Test for Hip Flexor Weakness
Tips for Testing Your Hip Flexor Strength or Weakness
This test is known as a manual muscle test. It is recommended and used clinically in orthopedic settings such as physical therapy or an ortho MD office. Professionals use a graded number scale to describe a client’s strength. When testing your strength, maintain good posture (as described in the video) and lift your thigh at least 30 degrees above the plane of the table. Your partner pushes down with even moderate pressure. Consider your hip flexor “weak” if any of the following occur:
You can’t lift your thigh to at least 30 degrees while maintaining good posture.
You can lift it to 30 degrees or more but can’t hold it against your partner’s pressure.
You notice a difference in effort when compared to your other side
Alternative Standing Hip Flexor Strength Test
Remember that the above test may not be challenging enough if you are active and generally quite strong. You could try this standing on one leg. With your knee bent, lift your thigh as high as possible. Hold this position for at least 5 seconds. If you cannot lift above 90 degrees and hold it for 5 seconds, consider your hip flexors “weak.” Of course, the amount of strength your hip flexors need depends on the demands of your sport, lifestyle, or favorite activity.
Were Your Hip Flexors Strong?
If you easily pass these tests, your hip flexors may be tight. Click HERE to read my prior blog post on testing for hip flexor weakness.
Did You Test Weak?
We can get mixed signals from our bodies sometimes. What feels like tightness may be a weakness we weren’t aware of. The word “weakness” can feel defeating and confusing, especially for active people who work on strength-building. Remember, “weakness” is relative. Depending on our activities, we can develop muscular imbalances. A “weakness” in a particular muscle group often means an overly developed or dominant muscle nearby.
If you discover “weakness” in your hip flexor, don’t let this defeat you. Instead, let it empower you as you’ve just realized something more about your beautiful body that you can work on to better it. The more aware you are of how your unique body functions, the better your body will work for you, and the longer you will be able to do all the things you enjoy!
If you would love to have one of our physical therapists assess your hip flexors (or more), AND you are local to Manitowoc, WI, we offer complete Mobility and Injury Risk Assessment Evaluations. To get started, click HERE to schedule your free phone consultation. We will answer all your questions and help determine if this is a good fit for you.