If you can't lift your leg to get in the car, you're not alone. Many people with hip or back pain have difficulty lifting their leg to get in the car.
Watch the video to learn what is wrong when you can't lift your leg to get in the car, plus exercises and other tips to make it easier to lift your leg.
What Is Wrong When You Can't Lift Your Leg To Get In The Car?
There are many different diagnoses that can cause difficulty lifting your leg to get in the car. These can include hip problems, back problems, and neurological / neuromuscular diseases.
Hip Problems Causing Difficulty Lifting Leg
Many people who have people who have a hip flexor strain or hip arthritis have difficulty lifting their leg to get in the car.
Muscle imbalances in the hip, low back, and abdominal muscles can often lead to difficulty lifting the leg.
These muscle imbalances include:
- Stiffness in the muscles in the back of the hip
- Overuse of certain hip flexor muscles
- Weakness or under-use of the iliopsoas (or iliacus and psoas in the picture below)
- Difficulty maintaining the low back in a neutral position due to abdominal muscle weakness
Anatomy Of The Hip & Low Back Muscles Involved In Lifting The Leg
Back Problems Causing Difficulty Lifting Leg
As noted above, your hip flexors muscles, primarily your iliopsoas muscles, are the main muscles that lift your leg, particularly when you're in a sitting position such as getting out of a car.
Your hip iliopsoas muscles are innervated by the L1, L2, and L3 nerve roots in your lower back.
Therefore, if you have bulging, herniated, or degenerative disc at L2 or L3, it can cause difficulty lifting your leg.
Additionally, since your psoas muscle attaches to the lower back (see picture above), it creates a strong compression force on the lower back, further compressing the discs and nerves.
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This can lead to a vicious cycle that makes it progressively more difficult for you to lift your leg to get in the car.
Neurological Weakness Can Cause Difficulty Lifting Your Leg
Some neurological and neuromuscular diseases such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, or polymyalgia rheumatica can also cause weakness in the muscles in the hip and shoulder girdles.
In these cases, it's important to address the underlying cause of the disease, but exercise to increase strength and muscular endurance also plays an important role in treatment.
Exercises To Help If You Can't Lift Your Leg To Get In The Car
Exercises To Improve Your Hip Mobility
1. Hip Flexion Stretch
Use your hands to pull your knee up toward your chest as far as you can. Only go as far as you can without pain.
Hold this position for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
You can also do this exercise lying down.
2. Piriformis stretch
Stretching your piriformis and other hip external rotators can also help if you can't lift your leg to get in the car.
These muscles are in the back of your hip, and if they're stiff, they can prevent you from lifting your leg fully.
To stretch your piriformis, cross one ankle over the opposite knee.
If you can't lift your leg high enough to cross your leg, straighten the other leg so that it lowers your knee closer to the ground.
Alternatively, you can put your foot on a stool as shown below.
Regardless of which technique you use, hold the stretch for 1-2 minute.
Exercise To Improve Hip Flexor Strength
- Sit in a chair
- Use your hands to lift your legs up as high as you can. Your knee should be slightly turned out and your ankle turned in.
- Practice holding your leg up using your iliopsoas (hip flexor) muscles. Use your hands to assist only as much as you need them.
- Hold 10 seconds, and then lower your leg back to the starting position.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
This exercise should help strengthen your hip muscles so you can lift your leg to get in the car or into bed.
What To Do If You Can't Lift Your Leg To Get In The Car
If you have difficulty lifting your leg to get in the car, sometimes just a small technique change can help.
How NOT to get in the car
If you step into the car leading with your foot first, that puts your hip in a position of hip internal rotation.
This position of hip flexion with internal rotation decreases the available space in the hip joint.
That in turn can cause difficulty lifting your leg.
Alternative Technique #1
However, if you turn your knee out as you're lifting your leg, that give you more available space in the hip joint.
If you step into the car leading with your knee before your foot, you may find it easier to lift your leg.
Alternative Technique #2
If you have really limited mobility in your hip, you may still have difficulty lifting your leg as described above.
In that case, back up to the seat when getting in the car leading with your bottom first.
Sit down on the seat and then use your hands to lift your leg into the car.
In conclusion, there are many reasons you may have difficulty lifting your leg to get in the car.
Using the exercises and technique modifications described above can help make it easier though.
Ultimately though, it's a good idea to have your hip evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine the cause of your problem and guide you toward the best treatment for you.
Have Problems Lifting Your Leg?
If you live in the St. Louis area and need more help to be able to lift your leg, we'd be happy to help.
Just tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialist physical therapists.