Hip pain is a regular part of life for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. Stretching and/or strengthening exercises can often help alleviate common hip pain. However, there are at least as many causes to hip pain as there are degrees and types of it, so please check with your doctor before doing any of these exercises.
If you are experiencing hip pain, or are just curious about exercises that can help you avoid it down the road, you probably have some questions. Read on to see answers to some of the more common questions about exercises for hip pain.
Why should I Do Exercises for Hip Pain?
Depending on the type of pain you are experiencing and its causes, you may find that exercises that strengthen or stretch the muscles of your hip can help. Factors like your overall health will also affect your exercise choices. Please do not do exercise that increase your hip pain. Always listen to your body, and talk to your healthcare provider of you are in doubt.
There are many ways that exercises for hip pain can help you. They can lessen pain and help you maintain flexibility. Another great benefit is that exercises for hip pain often help with lower back pain that is caused by tight hamstrings or hip flexors.
Improved muscle tone and range of motion can help you achieve better balance and stability. This can help you avoid falls - a leading cause of hospitalization in older adults. Finally, but certainly not least, exercise can help you delay or avoid hip surgery, which is an excellent reason to do exercise for hip pain.
What Are Common Causes of Hip Pain?
Hip pain is often caused by tightness of the hip flexors. These are the main muscles that connect your torso to your legs through the pelvis. Poor posture and prolonged periods of sitting can aggravate the hip flexors, resulting in hip and lower back pain. Sometimes, weakness in the muscles of the hips can also cause pain.
Osteoarthritis of the hips is fairly common. Wear of the cartilage in joints from arthritis can cause increased friction, swelling, and pain. Standing on hard surfaces for prolonged periods of time can aggravate pain caused by conditions like arthritis.
Will Exercise Make My Hips Hurt More?
The easy answer is that you should not experience and increased pain during hip exercises. You should expect some discomfort, but not sharp pain. If it still hurts 2 hours after you exercise, you have probably worked a bit too hard. Try to take it a little easier next time.
You are doing hip exercises to help alleviate some of your pain, so don’t do anything that makes it worse. Remember to check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Do I Need Special Equipment?
Most of these exercises require no special equipment. One uses a resistance band, and another uses a band for an extra challenge. A yoga or Pilates mat can make floor exercises more comfortable, and foam rollers are helpful for working out tight spots in the hip area. However, none of these are required to perform effective exercises for hip pain.
5 Great Exercises for Hip Pain
These are the exercises we feel are the best for hip pain caused by tight and/or weak hip muscles. Be sure to monitor your personal comfort with each one, and stop if you experience pain.
Hip Pain Relief Routine:
Hip Flexor Stretch
Side Leg Raises
Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexor stretch is a great way to open your hip-focused workout. It offers a gentle stretch that prepares your hip flexors for deeper stretches or strengthening exercises.
Get into a lunge position, allowing your back knee to rest on the ground. Place your hands on the ground in front of you if you can reach it, or on your higher leg if you aren’t yet able. Slowly and gently yip your pelvis forward as you slide your rear leg further back. This will open the front of your hips, stretching your quadriceps and hip flexor muscles.
Allow yourself to relax into the stretch, and don’t force it or bounce. Hold for up to a minute, then repeat on the other side.
People who are not comfortable getting into a deep lunge can safely perform this from an upright lunge, or even a seated lunge using a chair for support.
Stretches the hip flexors – which are tight in many people
You can determine the level of stretch that works for your body
Floor based version can aggravate knees
May feel painful for people with especially tight hip flexors – start in a chair!
Bridges are one of the best exercises for targeting your glutes. People who are able to get up and down from the floor will be able to safely perform some variation of this exercise. Even if you are not able to lift to a full bridge position, you will still see benefit from performing bridges.
How to Do a Bridge
Lay on your back on a mat or other comfortable surface. Your knees should point toward the ceiling, and your arms can extend along your body. Gently squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off the floor, hold briefly, and then slowly lower down. Try to lift on your exhale and lower on your inhale to avoid holding your breath.
·Bridges are an incredibly safe exercise
Strengthens the entire hip region
Works your muscles even if you only raise partially up
You must be able to get up and down from the floor
Can be uncomfortable for people with very tight hip flexors
Side Leg Raise
The side leg raise is a fantastic strengthening exercise that can be done by most anyone. You may have even seen it in a physical therapy session! The side leg raise is an exercise that is suitable for most fitness abilities. Although we give instructions for a floor-based version, please check out this YouTube video for a standing option.
Lay down on your left side. You can prop your upper body up on your hand if it is comfortable for you. Slowly raise your right leg as high as you can, using care to keep your foot parallel to the ground, by engaging through your hip and core (this is not a kick). Perform 10-15 raises on each side. A resistance band can be placed around your thighs to increase the difficulty of this exercise.
This is a simple and very safe exercise
Requires no special equipment
Uncontrolled movement can actually strain the hip – make sure your movements are slow, steady, and controlled
By walking sideways with a resistance band around your legs, you build strength in your outer thighs.
Side Step with Ease
This exercise is exactly what its name implies. Place a resistance loop around your feet or ankles. Slowly take several steps to the side, then return to the starting spot. Perform 10-15 sets of steps. Increasing or decreasing the strength of your band can make this more or less challenging as needed.
Very simple exercise
Is done from a standing position
Requires a resistance band to perform
May cause people to feel unstable
The pigeon pose is a favorite of many people (including me) because it stretches the whole hip area. Easily adapted to accommodate decreased flexibility, it can be done on the floor or while seated in a chair. This is a great option for people who are not yet able to exercise on a mat.
How to Perform Pigeon
Begin in a full plank position (hands shoulder width apart, feet extended and close together). Slowly bring your right knee to the back of your right elbow, then turn your foot and tuck it under your left hip. Gently bring your hips toward the mat while leaving your left leg extended behind you.
Your upper body can remain upright, chest forward and spine neutral if that is comfortable. You may also relax forward, bringing your forehead toward the mat. Hold the Pigeon pose for a minute before switching to the other side. The prolonged hold will help increase flexibility of your hip region.
This is my favorite approach to performing a Pigeon Pose. It is, by no means, the only way to get into correct form. I just find that it results in correct body alignment, so adjustments are minimal. This is especially helpful for people new to yoga-based stretching.
If this stretch is too much for you, consider performing it in a chair. Cross your right ankle over your left knee with your right knee open out to the side. Gently hinge forward from your hips with a neutral spine, holding the position for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Stretches the entire hip area
Can be done from a chair for those unable to exercise on the floor
Improper alignment can aggravate sciatica
This position may seem awkward at first
Putting Them Together
I compiled this list of 5 exercises for hip pain based on their adaptability and overall benefit for the hip area. When used together, they offer a great hip strengthening and stretching routine.
Practiced regularly, this routine can help provide relief from hip pain caused by tight and weak muscles.