Hip Stretch – reduces sciatic nerve type pain, improves sporting perfomance.

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A long clip, but he makes many valid points.  The external rotators of the hips get very tight in the huge majority of people.  Why release the external hip rotators?  Well, if a sports player and the sport requires rapid turning, good hip mobility is essential.  Runners are notorious for only running,  doing poor stretch routines and very little strength work.  The external hip rotators will tighten, reduce speed, lead to injury and eventually cessation of running.  Even if people don’t exercise, this group still tightens, and one of the muscles, the piriformis, gets very short and tight and squeezes the sciatic nerve.  True sciatica is not nearly as common as a tight piriformis constricting the sciatic nerve.  The pain is similar, but a tight piriformis can be stretched out.  Sciatica requires the attention of a chiropractor, osteopath or good remedial masseuse.  Finally it really is worth looking after the hips to avoid eventual hip replacement.  Replacing a hip, or going for knee surgery, really is not like taking the car to the garage and getting a new alternator fitted.  The body is a complex organic thing, not a mere collection of parts.  Anyway here is a rather gory picture of the external hip rotators plus sciatic nerve.

The surgeons prong thing is sliding under the sciatic nerve.  The piriformis muscle can be seen clearly at the top of the sciatic nerve.  The other hip external rotators can also be seen.

  1. To stretch out the hip, sit on the floor with legs in a roughly 90/90 position.  Even if you only watch the first few seconds of the video, this can be seen.
  2. The stretch is in the front leg.  If a stretch is felt in the trailing leg, bring the knee slightly forwards until nothing is felt in the rear leg or hip.  At the end of the clip, Paul shows another alternative for those who are really tight and cannot get comfortable on the floor.
  3. Press the front leg knee and ankle into the floor for 5 seconds.
  4. RELAX briefly.  Let the tension go completely.
  5. Then pull the front leg hip away from the front leg knee.  You tip from the hip straight towards your knee. As he says, if you just sag over, you will not feel a stretch, so keep the chest up.
  6. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds.
  7. RELAX briefly.
  8. Repeat 3 – 5 times.
  9. If you can get all the way down with a small lumbar arch, then move to mid calf and do the stretch again.

It is important to relax briefly between tightening the muscle and stretching it.  After a gentle contraction, a tight muscle briefly lets go, giving a window of opportunity for a stretch.  If we just move straight into stretching a tight muscle after contracting it, the muscle remains switched on and is unlikely to lengthen.  Yes, there are ways of stretching a muscle whilst it is contracted, but this is best done under supervision to avoid injury.  I want this stretch to help you, not weaken you further.  Enjoy.

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