Many people experience lower back pain. Before the pandemic, many of us were alternating between sitting at our desks and sitting in meetings every day. The onset of COVID-19 didn’t do much to get us up and moving, which increased the chances of a sedentary-driven life and lower back pain.
So what causes the pain? You might blame the year of working from your dining room table, which is a far cry from the ergonomic chairs in your office. However, the culprit might not be what you expect: tight hip flexors.
Where can I find these “hip flexors,” and how can I tell if I need to loosen up?
This muscle group is at the top of your thighs. Several activities (or lack of activities), like sitting too much, can lead to these muscles becoming too tight. If you’re feeling lower back pain, it’s definitely time to do some stretching.
However, if you want to avoid getting to that point altogether, a good gauge is hopping into a yoga warrior pose. Does your hip feel tight when you sink into your stretch? In the wise words of Kenny Loggins, “you’ll get by if you’d only cut loose, footloose.”
What happens when you loosen your hip flexors?
For one, it might reduce your back pain. Two, it helps your body work better.
To loosen your hip flexors, you can take a few actions, many of which may be supported by your pre-tax health account funds.
1. Stop sitting so much
You have probably heard by now that sitting is the new smoking. While the degree to which this is true is disputed, the dangers of sitting are still highly evident. More sitting has been linked to a greater likelihood of contracting certain diseases, diabetes, and even dying sooner.
To combat it, think about investing in a standing desk.
If your employer offers a lifestyle account or specialty account, you may be able to make this purchase and then submit the expense to your employer for reimbursement. In certain cases, a letter of medical necessity from your healthcare provider might be required.
If a standing desk isn’t an option, you could keep it simple and set a timer to get up and move every 30 minutes. Even moving for 3-minutes every half hour can increase your metabolism and decrease your chances of negative health effects.
2. Stand strong
Maybe you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum, and your job requires being on your feet all day. This can also take a toll.
If this is you, you might want to invest in shoe inserts. These orthopedic supports can give your feet and back a break while you’re working.
3. Do some stretches
There are several relatively easy stretches you can do that target your hip flexors. As mentioned before, if you do yoga, a warrior pose will help loosen up your hips.
Not into yoga? Try one of these alternatives instead.
If you’re sitting, one easy (and unassuming) stretch is a seated pigeon stretch. Borrowing from the yoga pose of the same name, this stretch involves one simple move: crossing one leg over the other.
Here is how to get the most out of the stretch:
- Sitting upright in your chair, cross your right ankle over your left knee.
- Flex your right foot, and feel a stretch in your right glute and outer hip. If you don’t feel a stretch, slowly hinge forward at your waist and lean into the right hip.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.
4. See a professional
If your back pain is bad enough or if it’s not just your hip flexors giving you trouble, it might be time to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist or chiropractor.
The services and products provided are usually FSA or HSA eligible. If you have a card, most times, you can pay directly from your pre-tax account at checkout. If not, you can submit a claim to reimburse yourself for the expense.
5. Fix your sleeping posture
If you are a side sleeper, you are more likely to experience back pain. Side sleepers often have a tendency to curl themselves up, which shortens the hip flexors and can lead to tightness.
Ask your doctor if they can write you a note to purchase a wedge pillow to put between your knees to fix your sleeping posture and reduce back pain.