Hip pain is among the most common and painful issues people will experience. The nature of the ball and socket joint of the hip, the fact it supports most of our body weight, and is involved in most full body movements, means it's extremely prone to wear and tear.
It is very likely that as you age you will experience hip pain or sciatic nerve irritation some sort, especially if you are heavy. When you do this damage to the hip and leg, difficulty walking, climbing stairs, pain relief, and overall mobility will all become an issue.
Thankfully, you don't have to accept hip pain as an inevitable part of life. With the following strengthening exercises and stretches for hip pain and some joint supplements, you can keep yourself pain free and fighting fit, without needing to see an expensive physical therapist.
Best Stretches For Hip Pain
Performing stretching exercises for hip pain is perhaps the best way to rectify the issue. By increasing mobility in the area, you can ease joint pain and relieve knots and tension in the muscles, to ease both posterior and anterior hip pain (1).
It is important to make sure you do your hip stretches properly though. Otherwise, you could damage the hip joint and risk making your hip pain even worse.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The hip flexor stretch works the hip flexors, the muscles at the top of the front of your thighs.
Start by stepping back with your left foot and putting your left knee on the floor, with your right foot flat on the floor in front of you and your right knee bent at 90 degrees.
Put your hands on your hips and slowly lean your pelvis and torso forward, until you feel a stretch in your hip flexor. Hold for a few seconds then return to the starting position, switch legs and repeat on the other side.
The hamstring stretch primarily stretches the hamstrings, but also works the glutes and the muscles throughout the posterior hip as well.
To perform them, sit on the floor with your left leg straight out in front of you, and your right knee bent, so you have your right foot flat on the inside of your left thigh.
Keeping your back as straight as possible, lean forward and try to touch the toes on your left foot, making sure to keep your butt on the floor. When you have gone as far as you can, hold the position for 10 seconds, then slowly ease out, switch legs, and do it again on the other side.
Double Hip Rotations
Double hip rotations primarily stretch the the muscles in your glutes.
To begin, lie on your back, bend your knees, and keep your feet together and flat on the floor. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, rotate your hips so your knees go to the left to the floor and your head turns to face right.
Pause here for 20-30 seconds then slowly bring both your knees and head back to the centre position and all the way down to the other side and hold for the same length of time.
Figure Four Stretches
Figure four stretches are designed to stretch both your glutes and the muscles on the outsides of your hips.
To start, lie flat on your back with your knees bent, keeping your feet flat and on the floor. Lift your right leg and turn it to place your right ankle on your left knee. Clasp the fingers on both hands together behind your left leg and slowly pull it to your chest.
Try to straighten your left leg as much as you can. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite leg.
External Hip Rotations/Butterfly Stretches
External hip rotations stretch your glutes and the muscles throughout the hips and upper leg, particularly in your inner thigh. They are also a great option to help with groin pain.
Start by sitting on the ground with your feet together and knees bent out to the sides. Put a hand on each knee and gently push down as far as you comfortably can. Pause here for 10 to 20 seconds then slowly ease back out.
To progress the stretch deeper and turn it into a butterfly stretch, grip your ankles, lean forward while keeping your back straight and push down on your knees with your elbows.
Knee lifts stretch the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. Begin by laying on your back with both legs straight.
Keep your left leg straight and bend your right leg, then put your hands on your right knee and pull it towards your chest. Hold this position for 10 seconds then ease back out and repeat on the other side.
Best Strengthening Exercises For Hip Muscles To Relieve Pain
Strength training and physical therapy resistance exercises rapidly fatigue hip muscles and connective tissues. This will make the hip joint joint stronger, allowing it to better support your weight, heal, provide stability, and avoid further injuries or hip pain in the future (2).
Standing Lateral Hip Swings
Standing lateral hip swings work your glutes, hip flexors, adductors, abductors, quads, and even the hamstrings. Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart and place your hands on a wall or chair in front of you for support.
Shift your weight onto your left foot and lift the other slightly off the floor. Keeping both legs straight, move your right leg away from the left and lift it as far as you comfortably can.
Pause for a second, then return to the starting position and keep going, so that it passes in front of the left leg and, again go as far as you can. Perform 10 repetitions, then switch legs and do the same again on the other side.
Straight Leg Raises
Straight leg raising exercises come in many variations but all work the hip flexors, lower abs, and some of the other muscles in the front of the upper legs.
A normal straight leg raise position will see you lie on your back with your legs straight and on the floor and ankles together. Place your hands on the floor for support and lift your legs up in a straight line, knees straight, until you have gone past a 90 degree bend at your waist.
Slowly lower your legs back down, until your heels are an inch off of the ground, and then repeat until you hit 10 reps.
Side Leg Raises
Side leg raises target your abductor muscle and glutes.
To do them, lie on your side with your body and each leg straight and feet together. Slowly lift the top leg up, keeping your knee straight, until you feel a mild pulling sensation in your groin. Pause for a few seconds, then slowly lower it back to the starting position.
Perform 10 reps then change sides and perform another 10 with the other leg.
Glute bridges work the gluteus maximus muscles and gluteus medius muscles in the buttocks, plus the hamstrings, hip flexors, and muscles in the upper legs and hips.
To perform them, lie on your back with a small pillow underneath your shoulders and your feet shoulder width apart, flat on the floor. Engage your glutes and use them to drive your hips up, going until your upper body and upper legs are in a line.
Pause and squeeze for a few seconds, then slowly lower your butt back to just short of the starting position and perform 10 reps.
Weight Bearing Yoga Poses
Performing yoga stretches and poses is a great way to stretch and strengthen the hips. Moves like the child's pose, pigeon pose, and yoga squats can all be used to develop the entire hip girdle, maximising its strength, flexibility, and mobility (3).
Those with milder hip pain who want to push themselves a little harder can also attach a one pound cuff weight to either their wrists or ankles. This will turn a pose into a weight bearing exercise, to further develop the area and reduce hip pain even faster.
Final Thoughts On The Best Exercises For People Experiencing Acute Hip Pain
Strengthening exercises, yoga poses, and physical therapy stretches for hip pain are among the best ways to aid the issue. They boost mobility, flexibility, function, durability, and strength in the joint, to ease the pain and stop it from coming back, giving you a better quality of life.
Joint supplements are also a great way to relive hip pain and make performing the exercises as safe and easy as possible. As you progress, you can even start incorporating weight lifting machines in your routine, to strengthen the area even further.
That said, if your hip pain worsens, contact a physical therapist to check you aren't doing anything wrong or see if you may have a deeper issue.