The hip flexor muscle, also known as iliopsoas, can cause severe pain if it gets tight. Its main function is to flex the thigh. The constant running and lunging on the tennis court can easily overwork the hip flexors. They get short and tight and very often will form trigger points.
The hip flexors are actually two different muscles: the psoas runs on the sides of the lumbar spine to the hip, and iliacus that runs from each side of pelvis and joins the psoas at the hip.
Trigger points in hip flexor refer pain into the low back, alongside the spine or across the back. It can be pretty excruciating – standing or lying down – and almost nothing can relieve it. Sometimes it is hard to get up, you might feel sciatica symptoms, and you can feel pain in the front of the thigh as well.
Activities that can activate the trigger points in hip flexors are:
- Prolonged sitting or sleeping with the hips bent in fetal position will shorten the hip flexors and activate the trigger points.
- Bending to the sides when your core is not strong.
- Trunk rotations.
- Tight quadriceps prevents proper hip extension and as a result generating more tension there. Be good about stretching your quadriceps regularly, and perform myofascial release on it, too. The quadriceps is very overworked muscle groups in a tennis player.
- Muscular imbalances between your left and right side.
- Leg length difference.
Stretching your hip-flexor is extremely important, but it may not be enough when you have developed trigger points. Myofascial release will bring you more relief.
Myofascial Release of Hip Flexors
Lie down on your stomach and place the ball high up towards your hips, just inside of the hip bone. Now as you transfer your body weight on the ball, relax as much as you can, and let the ball push inside your pelvis. If your hip flexor is very tight, this could feel very uncomfortable. Breathe deeply and stay in the place until you feel that the muscles start relaxing. Then move the ball around a bit to different position and repeat. Try to find the most uncomfortable spots and release them all.
You can do this with a tennis ball as well. But because the tennis ball is smaller, it will take more practice how to position the body to find and release the trigger points. Because you reach much deeper the discomfort can be higher, but you will feel really great when all the tension in the hip flexors is gone and you play tennis pain free.