5 Ways to Reduce Hip Flexor Pain When Sitting at Your Desk
If you’re reading this, my guess is that you have a desk job of some kind. A job that requires you to sit all day (or most of the day) - which means you are sitting far too long. That long day at a desk could cause hip flexor pain when sitting.
Many of us are familiar with the idea of back and neck pain from sitting at a desk, but can sitting all day cause hip pain too?
Hip flexor pain when sitting is an all too common problem, especially now that more of us are working from home.
Unless you are able to integrate intentional movement into your work day, you may begin to experience hip flexor pain when sitting. This pain can impact other areas of your body, causing low back pain and influencing your posture as well.
When at the office, you get up to walk to a coworker’s desk, make copies, or walk down the block to grab lunch.
But when you’re working from your home office or kitchen table, the only thing you are bouncing between is Zoom meetings and emails. (And you know your snack or lunch is just a few steps away.)
So even though you may seem to have more freedom when working from home - you’re probably in your seat even more. And that could spell bad news for hip flexor pain when sitting.
What causes hip flexor pain when sitting?
Put simply, hip flexor pain when sitting is caused because you are in the same position for hours at a time - making the hip flexor muscles tighten and shorten.
Your hip flexor muscles are made up of your iliacus and the psoas muscles and are together known as the iliopsoas. These hip muscles rarely get any rest, and although you may feel that sitting is a resting position, your hip flexors are still engaged.
When you are sitting, the iliacus holds your pelvis in line with your thigh bone and the psoas holds your spine in place so you can sit up straight. In fact, when they are kept in this position, they are in a shortened position.
Staying in a shortened position for long periods of time can cause muscle knots and cramps that creep into the inside of your hip, outside of your hip, and even your glute area and low back.
You also may notice that you begin to slouch more as the day goes on. Gravity encourages us to slouch while we are sitting, and slouching actually takes some pressure off of your hip flexor muscles so they are not working quite as hard. But that doesn’t make slouching a good thing!
Even though the iliopsoas may be getting a bit of a break when you slouch, your lower back and upper body start to suffer if you have bad body posture while sitting. Sitting up straight may cause the iliopsoas to shorten, but it is still more optimal than slouching.
The reason being is that you can use a few of the suggestions I gave above to lessen your hip pain while sitting.
When you work a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, especially if you can’t choose your breaks, as each day passes the stress will build on your iliopsoas muscles.
As they shorten more and continue to contract in that shortened position, muscle knots and muscle tension will begin to cause you hip flexor pain when sitting. You may even begin to experience hip pain when standing up after sitting if the iliopsoas muscle tightness is never addressed.
The good news is that you don’t have to live with hip flexor pain when sitting forever. There are many ways to treat and alleviate hip pain, and one of them is knowing a few ways to reduce pain when sitting at your desk or kitchen table.
Here are five ways that you can reduce your hip flexor pain when sitting so you can enjoy a pain-free day at work.
5 ways to reduce hip flexor pain when sitting
There are many dangers in sitting too much too often, and one of them is long-lasting hip pain or low back pain. Here are five ways that you can reduce your hip flexor pain when sitting.
1. Invest in an ergonomic workstation
A big part of the problem with our work day is that we sit in one position for too long. That’s why I suggest investing in an ergonomic workstation. This could look different for everyone and you should modify it to fit your needs.
Some companies may be willing to improve worker productivity by adding some ergonomic workstation solutions, but if you work from home you have more options and control over your environment to an extent.
There are plenty of options other than the standard desk and chair, including:
- Standing desk
- Desk with multiple heights to move from sitting to standing
- Treadmill desk
- Using an exercise ball as a chair
- Other ergonomic chair options
When designing a workstation to alleviate lower back and hip pain when sitting, you need to be able to change positions throughout the day. It can be helpful to work from home so you can create an environment that encourages movement and change throughout the day.
Even if you have a standing desk, it isn’t necessarily good for your body to stand all day long either. Your muscles need breaks from time to time and can be strained if they are stuck in the same position for too long.
The other aspect to consider is your body alignment and the way you are sitting. Try to find the best sitting position for hip pain. Even if you are changing positions throughout the day, your body alignment can impact how you feel at the end of your work day.
Whether you are seated or standing, find a way to maintain your posture and keep your head erect as you look at your computer screen. This may mean a platform for your laptop or a drawer for your keyboard. Whatever you need to encourage proper posture and less strain on your body.
2. Take breaks to stretch
Never underestimate how even the smallest stretch can impact your day. Taking even five minutes to stand up and stretch or even perform stretches seated at your desk for 10-30 seconds at a time can improve your posture and mindset.
Since we are focusing on hip flexor pain when sitting, standing up and moving your hips is encouraged here, but stretching your back and legs is equally as important.
Standing up (or kneeling on the ground) and doing a gentle lunge stretch to bring some movement to the hip area is great, but be careful not to over do it. There are a number of gentle hip flexor stretches for tight hips that should create almost immediate relief. You should be looking for a gentle pull (like when you wake up in the morning and do a big stretch before getting out of bed), but never any pain.
While your hip flexor pain when sitting is likely caused by tight muscles, that doesn’t mean that stretching is what will cure the pain. Over stretching tight muscles right after sitting can do more harm than good, which is why only a small amount of gentle stretching is encouraged.
3. Make time to go on walks and move your body
As I have already mentioned, movement is the key to keeping your hips happy. When you are in an office, this can look like taking a break every hour to walk over and refill your water, delivering a piece of mail on the other side of the building, or dropping off some information at someone else's desk/office.
When you are at home, you may have more room or time to plan out some time for walks and movement during your work day. If you have a dog or a small child at home with you, they too will benefit from getting out of the house during the day.
Walks don’t have to be long, they can even simply be around a block or two. The idea is to get your iliopsoas muscles into a new position and do a new activity for a little while so they do not freeze up and shorten so much that muscle knots or trigger points are created.
Try to fit in at least two shorts walks into your work day and then after work you can integrate other targeted exercises or longer walks.
4. Space out and stagger tasks if you can
If you have a job that requires meetings, emails, phone calls, and other types of tasks, try to build a schedule that mixes up the type of activity you are doing. Try to avoid doing the same activity the entire day.
An example of this is if you have a project you are working on, work on that project for a specified amount of time, but then try to schedule a phone call in between that project work and answering emails.
During your phone call, get up from your desk and maybe walk around the house or the office just to mix up your body positioning and add a bit more movement to the day. Then, after the phone call, you can return to your desk and answer the emails.
These types of changes in tasks can help you build habits that remind you to move your body or change body position.
5. Create a before and after work routine to alleviate hip pain
Part of the problem for many people reading this article is that they discover that the amount of sitting they do for work is what is causing their hip pain only once their pain has become chronic.
Having hip flexor pain when sitting means that you’ve already developed tight iliopsoas muscles and now you need a way to reverse that pain.
Stretching and massages may alleviate some pain in the moment, but they will not address the issue of tight muscles head on. To truly address tight hip flexor muscles, you need to teach your muscles how to relax.
The only way that muscle knots and general muscle tension can relax is by applying prolonged pressure. The problem is that the location of the iliacus and psoas make it very difficult to perform a pressure release.
That’s exactly why I invented the Hip Hook. If you’ve gone to a physical therapist for your hip pain, then you may be familiar with the pressure release they are able to perform on the psoas and iliacus muscles (your hip flexors). The Hip Hook allows you to perform that same targeted pressure from the comfort of home.
For best results with the Hip Hook, it helps to create a routine that allows you to use it daily (or every other day) to start. It doesn’t take long to achieve a muscle release of the psoas and iliacus muscles (only about 30-90 seconds) if you are using the Hip Hook correctly. You can use it longer than that, but when you are first starting out, it is recommended to take it easy and work up to longer periods with time.
For some people, using the Hip Hook before they’ve had a chance to workout or before starting a long day at work is what works best. For others, they may prefer to use the Hip Hook right after getting home. And others still prefer to use it before going to bed. Or all of the above!
No matter when you decide to use it, the main thing you need to do is create a sustainable routine that allows you to be consistent with use.
Over time, your hip flexor pain when sitting will dramatically improve, and other pain in your knees or back may also be impacted positively by your hip release exercises.
Frequently asked questions about hip pain when sitting at your desk
How do I know if my hip pain is arthritis, bursitis, or a hip flexor issue?
Getting to the root cause of your hip pain often requires a medical diagnosis. You can often narrow down possibilities by evaluating and recording your symptoms throughout the day - such as when they seem to worsen and where you specifically feel pain or stiffness.
You can choose to work with a physical therapist to treat symptoms and to help differentiate between the possible causes of the pain. For some people, there may also be a combination of two different conditions contributing to their hip pain.
Will sitting in a saddle chair help my hip pain when sitting?
Saddle seats or stools position your hips in a wide stance with your knees apart. The thought is that this position stabilizes the pelvis in an upright position to help to correct alignment and spinal orientation.
Sitting in a saddle chair isn’t necessarily feasible for the entire workday, but it could be included as a part of your workday as you change positions often. Saddle chairs may be uncomfortable at first as your hip readjusts to this new position, and they may not be ideal for everyone.
When should I see a doctor for my hip pain?
If you are experiencing hip pain, you should feel empowered to visit the doctor at any time. If you are unsure whether or not it is necessary to pay the doctor a visit, consider if your hip pain is interfering with your daily life in any way.
Does your hip pain prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep? Does it interfere with your workday productivity? Does hip pain stop you from doing your favorite activities?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should absolutely consider visiting a doctor to get a diagnosis and treatment plan for your hip pain.