Tight Hip Muscles & Walking Difficulties

Low section view of a person walking with a shopping cart in a supermarket
Even normal activities like shopping can become difficult with tight hips. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Tight hip muscles restrict hip mobility, making walking difficult. Hip flexion brings the legs forward and hip extension bring the legs backward. The hip flexor muscles bring the leg forward, and if these muscles are tight, especially the psoas muscle, the pelvis cannot move as it should, which could lead to back pain. Tight hip adductor and abductor muscles cannot support the knees and can cause knee pain and limited range of movement.

Walking on the Floor Psoas Stretch

The walking on the floor psoas stretch releases the psoas while strengthening the glutes. Perform this exercise slowly so that the psoas has time to stretch. To begin, lie face-down on the floor with your arms bent at right angles to your sides and your forehead on the floor. Turn your head to the right as you lift your left leg toward the ceiling, as if extending the leg backward while walking. Lift the leg up slowly and then place it back down without holding it. Turn the head to the left and lift the right leg. This is an active stretching exercise.

Hip Adductors (Upper Inner Thigh) Stretch

The hip adductors are the inner thigh muscles, connecting from the hip to the knee area, so if they are tight, they cannot lengthen properly when walking. To stretch the hip adductors, stand up and bend your left knee slightly to unlock the joint. Then step out with your right leg to the side with the leg straight until you feel the inner thighs stretching. This stretches the right adductors. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, then bend your right knee and straighten the left to stretch the other side for 30 seconds. The flexibility of muscles are not always the same on each side, so do not expect the stretch to feel the same on each side. Adjust the distance of the feet if necessary.

Hip Abductors (Upper Outer Thigh) Stretch

The hip abductors are the muscles of the outer thigh and work in opposition to the adductors. When the adductors of one leg work to walk, the abductors on the other leg assist. The abductors include the smaller buttocks muscles, too. To perform this stretch, sit on the floor with the left leg straight in front of you and the right leg bent with the foot on the floor to the outside of the left knee. Turn your shoulders to the right, using your left elbow on the outside of the right knee to assist your turn. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs and turn to the left for 30 seconds.

Gluteal Stretch

The glutes in the back of the hip work to extend the hip when walking. Tight glutes interfere with hip extension as well as adduction and internal rotation. To perform this stretch, stand facing a chair that is two feet from you and put your right foot on the chair with the knee bent. Lean forward with a flat back so that your sternum moves toward the knee. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the left leg.

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