Physical Therapy Exercises for Hip Pain

Aching hips may mean it’s time to address flexibility and strength in your hip flexor muscles. Here are four physical therapy exercises designed to provide relief. 

If you’re experiencing pain in your hips, the hip flexor muscles are likely the culprit. Physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen these muscles may help ease your discomfort and prevent future injury. You’ll also want to build the muscles in your glutes and quadriceps, as well as your core, in order to stabilize the area.

Your physical therapist can help you determine if weak or stiff muscles are the cause of your hip pain, and identify which areas you should focus on. In the meantime, the following exercises are a simple at-home way to begin your recovery.

1. HIP BRIDGES

This exercise activates your hip flexors and improves hip mobility while strengthening your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. It’s an effective antidote to long days spent sitting at your desk. To begin, lie on your back with your feet hip-width apart, with a rolled towel between your bent knees. You can let your arms rest away from your sides. Tighten your ab muscles and gluteal muscles and lift your pelvis so that it is in line with your shoulders and knees. Your hips should be doing the work, not your heels. Hold for a few seconds then lower slowly down, with your pelvis stretching slightly toward your heels. Repeat for five sets of 20.

2. LYING LEG CIRCLES

Lie on your side on a yoga mat with your hips and legs stacked on top of each other. For balance, you can extend your lower arm and bring your legs slightly forward. Lift your top leg to hip height and move it in small, controlled circles. Make sure your abs are engaged; if you need additional stability, you can position your back against a wall. Make 10 circles in each direction, and repeat for three sets. This exercise helps with hip mobility while strengthening areas that may contribute to hip pain, including the IT band, obliques, gluteal muscles, and quads.

3. HAPPY BABY

The happy baby is a basic but effective yoga stretch for tight hips, and it will also stretch your lower back. To begin, lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flexed. Bring your knees up toward your chest and grasp the outside edges of your feet — your arms should be positioned on the outside of your legs. Gently pull with your upper body to separate the legs and bring the knees toward the floor, just below the armpits. Stay relaxed, and don’t push your limits as you hold this stretch for five breaths.

4. PIGEON POSE

The pigeon pose is a more challenging yoga pose, but it effectively stretches both the hip rotators and the hip flexors, helping with pain relief. Start on your hands and knees, and bring your left knee forward. Take your left foot and twist it across to the right side of your body. As you deepen into the stretch, your left leg should come to lie flat on the floor with your knee bent. Lower your pelvis by lengthening your right leg along the floor so that your right foot points straight back. Gently arch your back with both palms flat on the floor in front of you. For a deeper stretch, you can lean your upper body forward, depending on your flexibility. Breathe deeply for 10 seconds, then repeat this stretch on the other side.

EXERCISES TO AVOID

If your hip flexors are weak, the above exercises may at first place too much strain on your muscles. Start at a level that feels comfortable to you and pay attention to any pain. Be gentle with stretches, slowly working to deepen the poses in order to avoid straining a muscle and causing additional discomfort.

If you’re experiencing hip issues, switch from jogging to low-impact aerobics like swimming or cycling. You should avoid any exercise that causes pain in your hips, like hiking or heavy weightlifting. Stay away from exercises like deep squats that require an extreme range of motion in the hips. Certain activities, like lunges and step-ups, may be difficult to perform with correct form, and are best avoided as well.

The orthopedic specialists and physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint can help you build a personalized treatment plan to address your hip and joint pain. Schedule an appointment today to begin your path to recovery.

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