Q: Hi Robin! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and really appreciate all the tips and resources you provide. Thank you! I’ve recently started doing Pilates and notice that sometimes my hip flexors really start to hurt. It’s usually when I’m lying on my back with my legs in “tabletop” position. Any ideas on why this is and what I can do to help? Thanks in advance!
A: This is such a good question. And one that I get asked all the time. This issue primarily arises for people who are either new to Pilates or have never been trained on how to do ab work effectively and accurately, which is nothing to feel bad about! But it is something to pay attention to.
While I can’t say for certain what’s going on without seeing you in person, pain in the hip flexors is often due to overuse of the hip flexor muscles (mainly the psoas major) and underuse of the deep core stabilizers (primarily the transverse abdominis).
Many people think their hip flexors are weak, when in fact they are not weak but rather overused and tired because their deeper core muscles aren’t pulling the weight that they should.
The psoas major (what most of us think of when we think of hip flexors) runs from the lumbar spine, through the groin, and helps to flex the hip joint.
The best thing you can do to correct this is to (surprise, surprise) do Pilates! But the key is to start at the beginning, learn about the way your body works and begin to find the connection to your deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor so that you don’t have to rely on your poor hip flexors to do ALL the work. If you dive into more advanced work you will likely repeat old movement patterns that continue the pain and overuse.
In the meantime, here are a few simple things you can do to alleviate the pain and help you find that connection deep within your core:
– leave your feet on the floor with knees bent instead of “tabletop” position.
– rest your feet on a chair or the couch while in tabletop to mimic the position without the strain.
– try raising one leg at a time in tabletop until you are able to do both without discomfort.
Give these a try and let me know how it goes. I hope it helps!