Hip pain can disrupt everyday life and make normal actions difficult and challenging.
There are a number of causes of hip pain, from wearing shoes without adequate support to injuries or arthritis.
Whatever the cause, exercise can help relieve pain and improve mobility.
In this article, we’ll reveal 10 exercises for hip pain that can improve or even eliminate your pain and bring back a normal range of motion.
Let’s have a look at the causes and symptoms of hip pain first.
What Causes Hip Pain?
Hip pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, and the pain can range from mild to severe.
Some causes of hip pain can be serious and others may be less serious. But even if it’s less serious, this doesn’t mean that it can’t affect your day-to-day activities.
Let’s take a look at some of the conditions that commonly cause hip pain.
Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of hip pain, as the cartilage that cushions the bones breaks down.
The hip bones then rub against each other, which leads to inflammation, stiffness, pain, or even loss of movement.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes the synovium to swell and thicken. This then creates a chain reaction whereby the chemical substance that’s produced begins to attack the articular cartilage that surrounds the hip bone and breaks it down. This will cause the bones to rub against each other.
Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome
Iliotibial band friction syndrome—IT band syndrome—is often caused by overuse. Most often, the pain will be felt on the outside of the knee, but you may also experience deep, aching pain in the hip.
This is often caused by weak hip muscles, which over time become extremely tight. As you either flex or extend the knee, the IT band rubs over the thigh muscle, which then becomes inflamed and can cause friction at the top of the hip. This can lead to a deep ache in the hip and the knee.
The piriformis muscle stabilizes the hip joint, as well as helping to rotate the hip and assisting with the outward turning of the leg and foot. This muscle lies behind the gluteus maximus and when the piriformis muscle tightens, this can place pressure on and irritate the sciatic nerve.
When this happens, you can experience pain, numbness, or shooting pain in the hip and it can also affect your range of movement. You can also experience pain throughout the whole leg. Shoes for sciatica can help, but this is a painful condition.
The labrum is the soft tissue—it’s like a type of cartilage—that covers the socket of the hip joint—acetabulum. This soft tissue is responsible for absorbing shock, sealing the socket, helps to stabilize the hip joint and it lets the femoral head move easily within the socket.
The labrum can tear or wear down due to an injury, abnormal hip movements or degenerative health conditions. You may notice a clicking sound or feel pain in the hip that gets worse when you bend, rotate the hip or move.
Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI)
Femoroacetabular impingement is a condition that’s also known as bone spurs.
This bit of extra bone can grow along one of the bones that form the hip joint. The bones then have an irregular shape and this causes them to rub against each other with movement.
This can cause a sharp pain in the groin area or towards the outside of the hip and it may cause the hip joint to stiffen. People may experience pain when they stand after having been seated for a period of time.
Trochanteric bursitis—also known as hip bursitis—occurs when the bursa sac that reduces friction between the muscles, tendons, and bones in the hip becomes irritated or inflamed. The inflammation can occur due to overuse, poor posture, or an injury.
This will often lead to pain on the outside of the hip and it can feel worse when you lie on the affected side, walk up stairs, or when you apply pressure to the outside of the hip.
Fracture or Trauma
Falls or other trauma—like a car accident—may cause a hip fracture, dislocation of the hip or tear a muscle, tendon, or soft tissue around the hip.
Depending on where the injury is, the pain may radiate through various parts of the hip, such as the outer side, in the buttocks, or the groin area.
What Are Hip Pain Symptoms?
The symptoms of hip pain will vary depending on the condition that’s causing it. You may experience pain or discomfort on the inside or outside—lateral side—of the hip joint or in the groin.
You may feel pain deep in their buttocks that can radiate down into the leg. Some people will experience pain or discomfort when moving the hip or leg during activities like walking, bending, or when getting up from a seated position or climbing stairs.
Aside from the pain that you experience, you may notice that your range of motion is reduced and you may find it difficult to move your hip or leg.
How Can Stretching and Exercises Help with Hip Pain?
If you’re experiencing hip pain, you may think that it’s counterintuitive to do hip exercises. But most doctors will recommend stretching and exercises to alleviate pain and encourage healing.
Stretching will help ease the stiffness of the tendons and muscles around the hip, which allows the hip joint to move fully. This will increase your mobility and alleviate pain.
The exercises will help to strengthen the muscles so that they can support the hip joint and reduce the stress or pressure that’s placed on either the weaker joint—tendon or muscles—or the worn-out joint.
This will decrease pain, encourage good posture and improve your functional mobility so that daily activities like walking, bending or climbing stairs are easier and pain-free. This is true for hip pain at night as well.
Just make sure that before you start, you are wearing the quality shoes for hip pain. If you don’t want to invest in new shoes, inserts for hip pain can also help.
Stretching Exercise Recommendations for Hip Pain
1. Hip Flexor Stretch
To start this exercise, move into a lunge position with your right knee on the floor and your left leg bent at a 90-degree angle in front of you. Your left foot should be flat on the floor.
Make sure to keep your back straight, place your hands on your hips, and then slowly push your hips and torso forwards. You should feel a stretch in your right hip flexor.
You’ll want to pause and hold the position when you feel tension, and as soon as it’s looser you can go further into the stretch.
Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and then switch to your right leg and repeat the movement. You’ll want to ensure that you stretch the hip flexors for at least 1 to 2 minutes on each leg in total.
2. Butterfly Stretch
Sit on the ground with your legs extended out in front of you. Then bring your legs towards yourself, bending them so that the soles of your feet are touching each other.
Try to bring your heels as close to your body as you can, and then let your knees fall out to the side.
Place your elbows on your knees and gently push your knees down to the ground—the soles of your feet must still touch each other—and gently lean forward into the stretch.
Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Pigeon Pose
Start on all fours, using a mat to protect your knees. Slowly bring your right knee up and place it on the mat just inside of your right hand.
Keeping your knee on the mat, swing your foot inwards and place it just below your left hip. Your lower leg should be at an angle—between 45-degrees and 60-degrees.
Keeping your left leg straight behind you, lower your upper body slowly towards the floor as far as it can go. When you feel the pull in your hip, pause for a few moments and breathe through it. When it eases, lean further into the stretch.
Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds on each side. When returning back to the starting position, unfold your bent leg carefully and slowly to avoid injuring yourself.
4. Double Hip Rotation
Lie on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, making sure that you keep your back flat against the floor. Then bend your knees and bring your ankles close to you, making sure to keep the soles of your feet flat on the floor.
Stretch your arms out next to you. Once your legs are a comfortable distance from you with your soles flat on the floor, gently rotate your knees so that you’re lowering them to the floor on your left side. You’ll then rotate your head in the opposite direction—face the right—while keeping your shoulders flat on the floor.
Make sure to do the stretch slowly until you feel a mild pulling sensation around the area being stretched. Then hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds and move out of the stretch back to the starting position in a slow and controlled movement.
Do this stretch on both the left and right side 10 to 12 times for 2 to 3 sets.
Strength Exercise Recommendations for Hip Pain
5. Lateral Squat
You’ll start this position by taking a wider stance, with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. If it feels more comfortable, you can turn your foot outwards slightly—so that the left foot is at 11 o’clock and the right foot is at 1 o’clock.
Now shift your weight onto your right leg, pushing your hips back while bending the right knee. Your left leg will remain straight with your foot on the floor as you try to get your right thigh parallel to the floor and drop as low as you can go.
Make sure that you keep your chest up and that the weight remains on the right leg. To help you maintain your balance, you can cross your arms across your chest or hold them out in front of you.
As you return to the starting position, you want to drive through your right foot making sure to squeeze your glutes. The entire motion counts as one rep. Alternate the leg and repeat the movement.
6. Side Lying Leg Raise
For this exercise, you’re going to start by lying on the right side with your legs extended straight out and stacked on top of each other. Use your right arm to prop yourself up, with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle.
Pull your navel towards your spine to engage your core and then lift your left leg straight up as far as you can. Lower it back down slowly. You can use an exercise or resistance band to make this exercise more challenging, just remember to position the band just above your knees.
Do this exercise 10 to 12 times on each side for 2 to 3 sets.
7. Fire Hydrant
For this exercise, you want to get onto all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders. Your knees will be directly beneath your hips.
Then, keeping your right leg bent, slowly raise it directly out to the side so that your thigh is parallel to the floor—like a dog at a fire hydrant. Make sure to keep your back straight—don’t hunch or round your shoulders—and pull your navel towards your spine to engage your core throughout the movement.
Hold your leg in this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then slowly lower it back down to the starting position. Then repeat the movement on your left leg. You can repeat this exercise 10 to 12 times on each leg for 2 to 3 sets.
8. Banded Walk
For this exercise, you’ll need an exercise band or resistance band. You can place the band around your ankles or just above your knees. Then bend your knees slightly, keeping your toes pointing straight ahead. Step to the left—side shuffle—and take 10 to 12 more steps to the left.
Once you’ve reached 10 or 12 steps, you’ll repeat the movement to the right for 10 to 12 steps, feeling your hips working with each step you take. You can do 2 to 3 sets of this exercise.
9. Single-Leg Glute Bridge
For this exercise, you’re going to lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the floor.
Then extend your left leg straight ahead—off the floor—as you push yourself off of the ground with your right leg. When you do this movement, make sure to engage your core and your glutes to push your hips off of the ground.
Your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders to the toes of your outstretched foot. Hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds and then slowly lower yourself to the starting position. Then repeat the movement on the alternate leg.
You can do 10 to 12 reps of this exercise on each leg for 2 to 3 sets.
10. Donkey Kick
To do this exercise, you want to get on to all fours, making sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders. Your knees will be under your hips while you keep your back flat.
Make sure that you don’t round your back or hunch your shoulders and engage your core by pulling your navel towards your spine. Then, slowly lift your right leg straight back and upwards towards the ceiling with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
Now kick back as high as you can, but when kicking back, make sure that you don’t arch your lower back and that your hips don’t rotate. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat the movement on your left leg.
Do 10 to 15 reps on each leg for 2 to 3 sets.