May 1, 2021

Why your hips may be causing back pain

If you sit for prolonged periods and suffer back pain, your hip flexors may be a hidden cause.

When it comes to back pain, it seems obvious to treat the source. Many of us, quite logically, apply a heat pack or book a shoulder and back massage. But often the obvious remedies fail to target the causes of pain. In fact, in many cases, the primary cause of pain is not the area where we feel pain at all. This is because pain is a complex process of messages from body parts to the brain and back (or to other body parts). For those of us experiencing pain, the messages we receive at the end (‘my knee hurts’) can be like the last word in Chinese Whispers: imprecise and even deceptive. This is why we often talk about ‘hidden causes’ of pain and recommend assessment and diagnosis by an allied health practitioner such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor rather than relying on guesswork.

A common example is back pain or movement limitations caused by shortened, tightened or weakened hip flexor muscles. This is common in those who sit for prolonged periods (e.g. desk work and driving). Because one hip flexor muscle, the psoas, is attached to the lumbar vertebrae, stretching out hip flexor muscles can help to alleviate a range of movement and pain issues including back pain and stiffness. A chiropractor can facilitate lengthening and strengthening of hip flexors using various hands-on techniques including PNF stretching in conjunction with targeted lifestyle recommendations and at-home exercises.

Can I DIY my flexors? 

If you are not currently suffering pain, stiffness or movement limitations and do qualify as high-risk for shortened hip flexors due to prolonged sitting or a sedentary lifestyle, there are DIY exercises that may help to prevent deterioration and knock-on symptoms. Here is a basic at-home primer.


  • Kneel on a mat on one knee and place other leg out in front for support.
  • Lunge forward until you feel a stretch through the front of your hip, ensuring that your back remains straight and that you don’t tilt forward or backward.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before easing out of the stretch and switching legs. Repeat the two-leg cycle twice.


  • Kneel on a mat on one knee, place hands out in front for support and move other leg out to the side, extended as though you’re aiming for side splits.
  • Lean forward and towards your front leg until you feel a stretch through the inner hip.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before easing out of the stretch and switching legs. Repeat the two-leg cycle twice.


  •  Sit on a mat with the soles of your feet together and knees out to the side like a butterfly.
  • Let your knees lower towards the ground until you feel a stretch. If you don’t feel a stretch, move feet towards you. If the stretch is too great, move feet away.
  • Remain in that position for 30 seconds, ensuring that knees don’t ‘bounce’.


  • Stand and hold a support such as a table.
  • Lift one foot behind you so your knee bends acutely and hold your foot against your buttock with your spare hand. Ensure that hips face forward and that pelvis does not tilt forward or back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before easing out of the stretch and repeating on the other leg. Repeat the cycle twice.

If you are experiencing persistent pain in your back, neck or hips, consider booking a FREE 30-minute chiropractic spinal health check, which can reveal hidden causes of pain. To book,  call 9013 5987 (available until May 19, 2021). For more information, click here. 

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