Climbing Stairs to Untighten Hip Flexors
The hip flexors are actually a set of two different relatively large muscles that run from the lower back to the front of each thigh. Like any muscle in your body, the hip flexors should be stretched gradually before engaging in strenuous activity like running. Climbing stairs can be used to help stretch the hip flexors and is most effective when combined with other stretching and strengthening workouts.
The Hip Flexors
The hip flexors are engaged in nearly any activity in which you use your thighs, such as walking, running, and swimming. Certain kinds of activity that can tax these muscles beyond their ability to stretch can lead to muscle tears or strains. Sports the require quick changes in movement or kicking such as soccer can put your hip flexors at higher risk of injury. Injuries to these muscles can range in severity from a minor pull to a rupture. These injuries are more likely to occur in muscles that have not been properly stretched.
Stair Climbing as Exercise
Although walking up stairs is a common daily activity, it's physical benefits are generally focused on the knees. According to a 2006 research study published in "Clinical Biomechanics," knee flexion is the primary source of force behind stair climbing. This, they explain, is due to the angle of flexion in the activity, which is more significant in the knees than the hips. Despite this fact, you can alter your stair climbing to further engage the hip flexors.
Stretching the Hip Flexors by Climbing Stairs
You can modify stair climbing to untighten your hip flexors by exaggerating the movement with each step. The Mayo Clinic explains that the hip flexors can be stretched by placing one leg on the step above the other. Keeping your upper torso as straight as possible and your knees perpendicular to one another, gradually move your upper body toward the upper leg. Gradually and gently stretch while shifting your weight towards the upper leg which should be in front of the lower one. Hold this pose for approximately half a minute and repeat after exchanging the positions of your legs.
If performed properly, stretching your hip flexors by climbing stairs can help increase strength and flexibility. Unfortunately, the exercise can also be performed too quickly with muscles that are not flexible enough to handle the gentle stretching. As a result, injuries can occur, causing pain, inflammation, bruising and decreased mobility. The pain associated with a hip flexor injury is often located in the thigh area but the injury may not become evident for several hours. In the most severe cases, an individual may not be able to walk after tearing or rupturing a hip flexor muscle. Medical treatment for these injuries can range from anti-inflammatory medications to surgery.
Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.