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The ball-and-socket construction of your hip joint allows you to move your thigh in many different directions. One possible movement of the hip is abduction. The abductors move the thigh away from the center of the body, such as when you take a step to the side. The hip abductors include the tensor fasciae latae, the gluteus medius, the gluteus minimus and the piriformis. The first three of these muscles are located on the side of the hip, while the piriformis is located deep within the pelvis.
Tightness in the Abductors
When your abductors are tight, they restrict the mobility of your hip. This can lead to pain on the outside of your knees as well as in your lower back and hips. When your piriformis is tight, you might experience pain that begins in your buttocks and radiates down your leg. Stretching can reduce tightness in the abductors. Different stretches target the different muscles that abduct the hip.
Stretching the Gluteus Medius and Minimus
To stretch your gluteus medius and minimus, sit on the floor and extend both legs in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your foot to the left of your left knee. Turn your upper body to the right, using your left elbow to push your bent knee further to the left. You should feel a stretch on the outside of your right hip. Hold the stretch for approximately 30 seconds before relaxing. Then repeat the stretch with your left leg.
Stretching the Tensor Fasciae Latae
The end of the tensor fasciae latae merges with the iliotibial band, a thick fibrous band that runs down the outside of the leg and attaches to the tibia, the large bone in your calf. The iliotibial band participates in hip abduction as well. To stretch both the tensor fasciae latae and the iliotibial band, lie on your back and loop a resistance band or yoga strap around the bottom of your right foot. Holding the ends of the band in your left hand, straighten your right leg and lift it so that it is perpendicular to the floor. Pull your right leg across your body, keeping both shoulders and hips on the floor throughout the stretch. You should feel a stretch down the outside of your right leg. After holding the stretch for 30 seconds, repeat it with your left leg.
Stretching the Piriformis
Begin the piriformis stretch lying on the floor. Bend both of your knees so that you can place both feet on the floor. Cross your right foot over your left thigh. Your right knee will be pointing to the right. Grasp your left thigh with both of your hands and pull your thigh toward your chest. You will feel a stretch deep within your right hip. Perform the stretch with the other leg, holding each of the stretches for at least 30 seconds.