IF YOU'RE EXPERIENCING hip pain, you're going to have a tough time avoiding discomfort. These essential joints are involved in all kinds of basic movements, like walking and running, so you'll have issues being active—but the hips are also important for all the time you spend sitting down. They're in a tight, flexed position whenever your butt is in a chair, so you might not get a break when you take a seat to relax.
Luckily, there are stretches and exercises you can do to help alleviate some of that hip pain. You'll be able to work to improve your mobility and strengthen the muscles around the joints, which can be the key to finding relief.
What Does the Hip Do?
First, it's important to understand a bit more about the hip joint. The hip is the connection point between the pelvis and lower body. It's a ball and socket joint—the ball is made up of the head of the femur, or thigh bone, which sits just inside a socket created by the bones of the pelvis. Ball and socket joints are extremely mobile, and the hip can move in six different directions. The hip moves in flexion and extension ('closing' the joint and moving your thigh in closer to your body and 'opening' the joint and moving the thigh away, respectively), abduction and adduction (pulling the thigh away from the body and pulling the thigh in towards the body, respectively), and external and internal rotation.
This wide range of motion means the hip is used almost anytime you use your legs. That's great for overall mobility when the joints are working optimally—but that becomes an issue when something is wrong and you're suffering from hip pain.
What Can Cause Hip Pain?
Though the hips are relatively stable, Warner notes that it's not uncommon for the joints to become an issue for a wide range of people. "The weight-bearing nature and the amount of tendons and soft tissue structures that cross it make it a hot spot for irritability," he says.
Hip pain typically stems from mechanical imbalances in the body, according to Warner. Injuries or strength differentials on either sides of the body can cause the hips to become unbalanced, altering the movement pattern in the hips. Hip-powered movement then becomes "less efficient, often causing fatigue and weakness," Warner says.
Follow the routine below to find relief. If your hip pain seems to get worse or remain the same after this routine, be sure to contact a doctor or a physical therapist to get more individualized treatment for your injury.
4 Exercises to Help Alleviate Hip Pain
90-90 Hip Switch
Why: To start, emphasize mobility through the hip joint. This move helps open up the internal and external rotation aspect of the hip.
How to Do It:
Start by sitting on the ground, with one thigh pointed straight out in front of you, and the other pointed out to the side. Keep both knees bent at 90 degrees as well.
Lean forward over the front leg to where you feel a safe stretch in your glute. Hold for a few seconds
Pivot over your heels to turn to the other side to do the same.
Sets and Reps: Alternate back and forth for about 10 to 15 reps
Hip Flexor Stretch
Why: The hip flexor muscles power—you guessed it—flexion of the hips. Every time you drive your thigh up to bring your foot to the top of a step, that's your hip flexor working. This exercise will provide a good stretch through this muscle, which can get tight when we sit for too long.
How to Do It:
Kneel on one knee. Make sure the ankle, knee, and hip are all in line with each other.
Gently squeeze the abs and glutes to tuck the pelvis under.
Slowly lunge your weight forward onto the front leg until you feel a stretch in the front portion of the hip and upper thigh.
Take the arm opposite to the front leg up overhead, and use it to bend your body away from the front leg.
Sets and reps: Hold this position for about 30 seconds for a total of 3 rounds.
Why: Now that you've mobilized the hip, start addressing to strengthen the muscles that surround it to produce stability. "We often see weakness in the lateral hip musculature, specifically the gluteus medius and minimus," Warner says. This exercise has been shown to strengthen those muscles.
How to Do It:
Balance on one leg with the opposite leg held up in front of the body.
Sit the hips down and back as if you were about to sit into a chair. Make sure that your knee stays in line and doesn't cave in as you push back up.
Take your time with this move, aim for a 3 second decent and a 2 second return to standing.
Sets and Reps: 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
Staggered Stance Deadlift
Why: This exercise will really help increase strength through the extension motion of the hip. It also acts as a stepping stone from a traditional deadlift to a single-leg deadlift.
How to Do It:
Grab a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells. Start with your feet even at about shoulder-width apart, then take a step forward with one foot. Shift your weight onto your forward leg, and pop the rear foot up onto its toes like a kickstand.
Push the hips back while maintaining a neutral spine, then lower the weights down towards the floor. Keep the weights close into the body.
As you return to standing, think about squeezing the glutes as much as possible.
Set and Reps: 3 sets of 8 reps
For more advice from physical therapists to help you move and feel better, check out all of our guides in The Fix series.
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