By Dr. Sagar Parikh
The New York City Marathon is just around the corner. For those of you who are running it or have ran marathons in the past, you would agree that it is not an easy feat. Training for a marathon takes dedication, endurance and a structured training schedule. One of the more common injuries that new runners often face is strain to their hip flexors.
The hip flexors are a group of muscles (psoas muscle, iliacus muscle and rectus femoris) that not only forward flex the hip but are very important for overall stability when walking or running. We all know that stretching before and after a run is important, however, it is especially important to stretch your hip flexors given the fact that the majority of most peoples’ day consists of these muscle groups being in a shortened position. Unfortunately, the majority of us seem to sit at a desk for a greater portion of the day. Sitting for a long period time leaves the hip flexor musculature at a shortened position which, if left for prolonged periods of time, can lead to tightness.
Hip flexor strain often presents as dull deep pain emanating from the groin or the upper thigh especially if attempting to exercise. Getting plugged into a good physical therapist is key but for those of you who are hesitant there are a few simple activities you can do at home. The first self-directed exercise is taking part in yoga. Yoga does a fine job of ranging the majority of the muscles in your body through its full range of motion. Specific poses like the Warrior pose not only stretch your leg muscles but also test one’s balance. A slightly modified version of this stretch includes kneeling on both knees while then moving the unaffected leg forward so that your foot is flat on the ground. Then when you lean forward, you should feel a stretch along the affected thigh. The second self-directed exercise involves the use of a foam roller.
A foam roller is a piece of cylindrical dense foam that is often used to provide a stretch and massage to tight muscles. Place the foam roller on the ground and lay on top of it with your stomach facing floor. The painful aspect of your thigh should be in direct contact with the roller. Using a modified push-up position you can then move forward and backwards and provide a massage to the tight muscle group. Lastly, you should modify your daily routine so that you include mandatory breaks where you simply get up from your seated position (every 30 minutes for example) and simply perform mild stretches with your upper leg in extension. There are many components to training for a marathon; however, preventing hip flexor strain can mean all the difference.
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