Our Neglected Hip Flexor: A Key to Holistic Well-being

In a recent interview with the German SZ-Magazin, renowned elite sports physiotherapist Klaus Eder emphasised the significance of the hip flexor for our bodies and how certain habits can harm this crucial muscle. Eder, who supported the German national soccer team for over 30 years, explained that issues with the hip flexor, technically known as the iliopsoas, often occur, especially in sports like soccer, where the muscle is heavily stressed during rapid direction changes and high impact. 

Klaus Eder's practical manual therapy approach has been heavily influenced by Dr. Ida Rolf and her developed method of Rolfing® Structural Integration, as well as in his diagnostics and fundamental thinking. According to his own statements, he has lifelong benefited in these areas from his personal participation in an advanced seminar held by Dr. Ida Rolf in Dallas, Texas, for a circle of international manual therapy experts. Since 2012, he has also maintained a lively exchange with the Rolfer® and fascia researcher Dr. Robert Schleip through regular joint further education, specialist articles, TV appearances, and other activities.  

Without a doubt, Klaus Eder's profound appreciation for the importance of the iliopsoas muscle has also been shaped by this significant background of Rolfing® Structural Integration."

- Dr. Robert Schleip

Anatomical Importance of the Iliopsoas  

The iliopsoas extends as the most crucial muscular connection between the legs, pelvis, and trunk from the diaphragm to the thigh and plays a decisive role in hip flexion and upper body stabilisation. However, many people neglect this important muscle, which can lead to shortening and adhesions.  

The fascia surrounds the iliopsoas and helps it to tense or relax. If it is restricted, the muscle remains shortened, leading to postural problems."

- Klaus Eder 

Restricted fascia could hinder oxygen supply to the hip region and irritate the nerve plexus surrounding it, leading to radiating pain, tingling, or numbness in the back and legs. According to Eder, oxygen deficiency in the pelvic and hip area could even initiate degenerative processes that can cause arthritis. 

Effects on the Body  

According to Eder, a cramped iliopsoas can lead to back pain and affect the entire upper body, especially in people who sit a lot. Improper strain can lead to rapid wear of the joints. The cramped muscle can affect the nervous system and cause pain from the groin to the knee, as well as breathing difficulties and digestive problems. 

As a so-called "soul muscle," the iliopsoas has a strong influence on emotional experiences and can elicit unexpected reactions such as crying or laughing when touched:  

It's called an emotional breakthrough. This is because the hip flexor is even connected to the emotion centres in our brain through the autonomic nervous system. That's why it's greatly affected by stress, especially when it becomes chronic."

- Klaus Eder 

Practical Approaches to Iliopsoas Health  

However, the elite sports physiotherapist provides hope and explains that there are ways to relax the hip flexor and prevent discomfort. These include regular movement breaks at the office, targeted stretching exercises, and yoga practices that mobilise the hips and loosen the muscles.  

Ultimately, Eder emphasises the importance of a healthy lifestyle, which includes sufficient exercise, a balanced diet, and abstaining from harmful substances such as alcohol and nicotine. Through these measures, we can strengthen our neglected hip flexor and thus make a significant contribution to our holistic well-being. 

Supporting the Iliopsoas through Rolfing® Structural Integration 

While the method of Rolfing® Structural Integration shares certain characteristics with other forms myofascial manipulation and movement education, there are several aspects which make this work quite unique. Among them is the systematic progression of the focus of the first few treatment sessions from more superficial tissues towards deeper (and more intrinsic) ones in subsequent sessions. As a key element the psoas muscle, lying in front of the lumbar spine is then finally approached after several preparatory session.

The effects of a related re-tuning of the psoas muscle are then usually immediately observable to the client and the practitioner.”

– Dr. Robert Schleip 

In the so-called “Psoas Walk” (as it was named by the founder of that method, Dr. Ida Rolf) the pelvis participates more fluently in the free-swinging movement of the legs.  

For me, even after several decades of familiarity with the Rolfing method, this is still a very magic moment in the treatment series and one of the ‘secrets’ of the potency of this work.”

- Dr. Robert Schleip

Klaus Eder honoured by Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation 

Klaus Eder's work was honoured with the "Clinical Pioneer Award" by the Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation at the international Fascia Research Congress in Washington DC in 2015.  

I can confirm that Klaus Eder regards this recognition with a similar degree of pride and gratitude as he does towards the Federal Cross of Merit awarded to him in 2020."

- Dr. Robert Schleip

Source: Quotes translated from German publication: “Wir sollten gut auf unseren Hüftbeuger aufpassen”, an interview by Simeon Koch published in the German SZ Magazin on 9th January 2024 

Photo: Cover photo of Klaus Eder (left in picture) and Dr. Robert Schleip, copyright © Dr. Robert Schleip 

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