The Spine Does What The Hips Can’t

A contracture is a condition of the shortening and hardening of muscles, tendons, or other tissue, often leading to rigidity of joints.

When a hip experiences a flexion contracture, the soft tissue around the hip won’t allow the hip to go into extension.

This is when the body’s brilliant compensation mechanisms kick in.

If we didn’t all have this incredible ability to adapt and compensate, the moment dysfunction occurs we’d stop moving.

If that hip can’t extend, yet we still need to move, we will make up for that missing extension elsewhere in the body.

Typically the pelvis and spine will chime in here to help out.

The hips inability to move backwards into extension when walking can be overcome by tilting the pelvis forward (anterior) and arching the lumbar spine which has a consequent increase in lordosis. [1]

The drawing on the left shows what a right hip flexion contracture looks like when the right leg is in mid-stance. The drawing on the right shows that same flexion contracture preventing the hip from extending when the femur moves to a vertical position in terminal stance.

The hip angle stays the same regardless of leg position, but to keep you moving forward, the pelvis tilts and compensation occurs within the spine.

This moves the work and movement away from the hips and puts it in the back.

Now if you are in our online program, by now you have most likely come across an exercise called, “The World’s Greatest Hip Flexor Stretch” mixed into our rebalancing sequences.

One of the intended outcomes with this position after spending 15-30 minutes (maybe more depending on the severity of the contracture) is to give your physiology time to release a flexion contracture and allow the soft tissue to release so the hip can gently extend – swipe to see an example.

If you have tight hip flexors, just cranking on them through torquing intense stretches can help, but it can also cause you to move first through your back because the hip can’t move which will reinforce compensatory mechanisms.

This position helps a hip to find true extension while taming the lumbar spine simultaneously. #lordosis #scoliosis #holistic #movement #therapy .

Source cited below. 

[1] Levine, D., Richards, J., & Whittle, M. W. (2014). Pathalogical and Other Abnormal Gaits. In Whittle’s gait analysis (5th ed., pp. 66-82). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

Perry, J., 2010. Gait Analysis: Normal and Pathological Function.

Saunders, J.B.D.M., Inman, V.T., Eberhart, H.S., 1953. The major determinants in normal and pathological gait. J. Bone Joint Surg. Am. 35, 543-558.

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