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Tight Hip Flexors and Lower Rectus Femoris

I’ve been troubleshooting tight hip flexor for years. It’s a gradual symptom. A feeling that starts while running a fast mile, or hill sprint. Runners come to my massage practice complaining of this leg seizing death grip, hoping for relief. No amount of rolling, stretching or Theragun changes the tightness.

Past approaches to alleviate tightness are: elbow directly over the hip flexor, a slow fascial release along the quad, trying to mobilize the adjacent muscle the Tensor Fascial Latae (TFL) and cursing at it. There’s never a single solution. Which I both respect and hate.

I did, however, start noticed a pattern in clients who did hill repeats, speed workouts or intense downhill trail running. The common result was the distal portion of the quad getting rigid and adhere to itself. This happens when soft tissue goes from high demand and high force acceptance, to cooling down post training.

My massage practice is a blend of following the books (or studies) and not. It’s both Art and Science. Because of this, I run experiments, relying heavily on the feedback from my clients who are training to tell me if something worked or didn’t.

Recently I had a client training for a marathon suffering a tight hip flexor muscle. I put my pattern observation to test, noticing the distal/ lower portion of the clients’ quad muscle was really rigid and felt crunchy (yes that’s a science term). This was both from a previous in injury and also from their increase in training distance.

Exposed back with 4 plastic massage cups suctioned along back muscle

Instead of working directly on the hip flexor, I worked on the lower 1/3 of the quad muscle using a combination of cupping and hot stones. Followed by a slow fascial release from knee towards hip flexor. The intent was to pull apart, soften and separate the tissue.

I rarely expect a treatment to 100% resolve the issue, it’s always gradual. But what I look for is a reduction in pain, a change in sensation, or an overall improvement in feeling smoother while running, gait change or cadence improvement and if I'm lucky and increase in speed.

This treatment took 2 sessions and 2 weeks of training to get results and I received a wonderful email stating the tight hip flexor sensation had significantly changed. A success!

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