My Hips Don’t Lie

Yup-worst title ever, but it got you this far…

In light of discussing hockey and soccer related groin pain for the last couple weeks, I thought I’d give a personal example that will help illustrate how some of the things we’ve talked about come together.  I’ve had off and on knee and hip problems on the left side.  Basically, I feel extremely unstable at both joints and something just feels off.

I never had any problems with my knee until I took a horrible gravel-related spill demonstrating a double lateral bound into 5-yard sprint exercise (a great drill to teach explosive lateral movement with sharp direction changes).  That brilliant display resulted in:

Nice Knee

Knee hasn’t been the same since.  But I have a history of groin pain on that side and had inguinal hernia surgery on that side as well.  In a nutshell, even with everything I’ve learned about hip and lower abdominal injuries over the last few years, I still thought my left hip was the problem.  

Recently I started high-intensity interval training on a bike.  I found that my hip and knee felt considerably more stable and symmetrical FOLLOWING the interval training.  To give you an idea, I basically fall off the bike, and walk without a knee bend because my quads and glutes are so stiff…but my hip and knee feel better. Hmm.

I did some digging around and some strategic stretching and noticed that my right rectus femoris AND psoas are WAY tighter than the same muscles on the left side.  The psoas is also a lateral rotator of the femur.  Without going into a complex functional anatomy lesson here, basically my rectus femoris and psoas were extremely tight, which resulted in my lumbar spine (the origin of the psoas) pulling slightly to the right, my right femur maintaining a slightly laterally/externally rotated position (which was accompanied by adaptive shortening of the hip lateral/external rotators).  As a result, my left hip was in a slightly medially/internally rotated position, which affected how I walked, leading to a slight hyperextension of my left knee and noticeably asymmetrical movement.  

The Bottom Line: Right Hip Problem Resulted in Left Hip and Knee Symptoms

The fix?  Stretch the hell out of my psoas and rectus on the right side.  Strengthen/shorten my psoas on the left side.  Or, in the interest of saving time while training, do both using the exercise below.

I probably started a bit high in this video, but the idea is that you strengthen/shorten your psoas by maintaining a hip flexion position above 90 degrees, while actively squeezing your glutes on the down side, which facilitates a stretch on your hip flexors.  Better/faster results comes with more time/attention paid to the problem, but if you’re in a time jam, this is a great “bang for your buck” exercise.  

Keep working smart…

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