If you’re struggling with hip pain and limited mobility, you’re not alone. According to a study in Osteoarthritis Cartilage, 1 in 4 adults will develop symptomatic hip osteoarthritis in their lifetime.
While there’s no cure for hip pain, physical therapy can be an effective way to manage a variety of symptoms to improve your quality of life. It is one of many treatment options but includes strengthening exercises you can do at home to keep your hips in good shape.
We’ll share 15 of the best hip physical therapy exercises for hip pain, so you can develop an effective exercise program to treat hip pain.
Causes Of Hip Pain
There are many potential causes of hip pain. It could be because of a hip injury, arthritis, pelvic tilt, or even something as simple as tight muscles.
Arthritis is one of the most common causes of hip pain. Arthritis is a condition that causes joint pain and inflammation. Many different types of arthritis exist, such as rheumatoid arthritis, but osteoarthritis is the most common type affecting the hip. It’s the result of wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions the joint.
Another common cause of hip pain is muscle strain or injury. The hips are a ball and socket joint supported by a group of muscles called the hip flexors. These muscles can become weak or tight from overuse, leading to hip joint pain.
Other causes of hip pain include:
- Hip bursitis (inflammation in the fluid-filled sacs called bursa that protect the hip joint)
- Pelvic floor issues
- Labral tears
- Nerve impingement (also called pinched nerve, causes a burning-type pain because of pressure from nerves)
- Femoroacetabular impingement (or hip impingement)
Your lower back and hips work together and depend on one another. Issues with one area may cause problems in the other. If you have tight hip muscles, your body may engage in compensatory motions that lead to lower back pain.
One way to tell that the pain is related to your hip, rather than your back, is if you feel groin pain.
Understanding The Hip Muscles
The hip muscles are responsible for moving the thigh and leg. The muscles in the front of the hip are called the iliopsoas and attach to the thigh and pelvic bone. They help to flex the thigh and lift it forward.
The muscles in the back of the hip are called the gluteus Maximus and attach to the thigh and pelvic bone. They help to extend the thigh and lift it backward. The gluteus medius helps to rotate the hip. The gluteus minimus helps to rotate and stabilize the hip. The piriformis muscle assists in hip rotation and abduction.
How PT Can Help Hip Pain
Physical therapy treatment can help to treat people with hip pain and improve their hip mobility. A physical therapist helps you stretch and strengthen the muscles around your hip joint and knee joint. They can also help you with home exercises targeting a variety of muscle groups that will improve your loss of range of motion and help to relieve pain.
With the help of therapy for hip pain, you should be able to return to your normal daily activities. You may find that you have less pain when you perform daily hip functions like walking or climbing stairs.
Rehab Exercises and Stretches for Hip Pain
These exercises and stretches should not cause intense pain, but if they do, stop performing them and speak with your physical therapist. The best hip stretches and exercises for chronic hip pain include:
Hip Flexor Stretch
This is an effective way to stretch your hip flexor muscles and quadriceps for pain relief. If you have movement difficulties, keep a chair nearby for additional stability.
- Start by standing up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step forward with your left foot. Lunge forward gently, keeping your right leg straight behind you.
- Lean your torso forward so that your left hip is over your left knee, and reach down with both hands to grab your left ankle.
- Gently pull your left ankle toward your hips until you feel a stretch in the front of your right thigh. Maintain this position for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Iliotibial Band Stretch
- Lie on your back. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.
- Put one of your legs on top of the other one. Rest your ankle on the opposite knee.
- Grab the back of your leg. You should feel tightness in your quadriceps muscles.
- Pull gently and release.
- Position the bottom of your foot so that it is on the side of your top knee.
- Pull the top of your foot down toward the floor. It should be elongated on the outer part of your top thigh.
- Repeat with each leg three to five times.
For more IT band stretches, you can take a look at our article here.
“Having Babies” Bridge Exercise
- Lie on your back. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. Keep your feet flat on the mat.
- Leave your arms down at your side on the mat. Lift your hips off the mat to create the “bridge” and push your knees outward.
- Hold the position for up to 2-5 seconds, engaging your abs and gluteus muscles for the duration.
- Lower your hips back to the mat slowly.
- Repeat for 15 to 20 reps.
- Place a resistance band with moderate resistance around your ankles.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight. Bend your knees at a 45-degree angle.
- Walk forward or backward and maintain constant friction on the resistance band.
This challenging move targets your glutes, hamstring muscles, and core muscles and can be done anywhere without equipment.
- Lie flat on your back. Bend your knees. Keep your feet flat.
- Raise one leg off the ground. Straighten it out in front of you.
- Keeping your raised leg straight, press through your heel to lift your hips and lower back off the floor.
- Maintain your position for a few seconds, then gradually lower back down to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
“Soccer Pro” Exercise
- Begin by lying flat on your back with both legs slightly bent in front of you.
- Raise one leg up, keeping it straight as you do so.
- Hold for a few seconds, then lower the leg back down to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- To make the exercise more challenging, use a resistance band while you raise and lower your leg.
Single-Leg Hip Circles
- Start by getting on the floor with your hands and knees in all-fours position.
- Next, slowly lift one leg and begin moving it in a circular motion.
- Reverse the direction and continue for 8-10 circles. Keep your abs engaged the whole time so that you don’t strain your back.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Start in a quadruped position on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Keeping your left knee bent, drive your left leg up so that your foot is pointed over your glutes.
- Kick your leg back and up, engaging your glute muscles to power the movement.
- Return to the starting position. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg.
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Either rest your hands at your sides or place them on your hips.
- Keeping your core engaged, lift your left leg out to the side and away from your body.
- Maintain for a moment before slowly lowering back to the starting position.
- Repeat 10-12 times on each side.
- Lie down flat on your back with your feet tucked in toward your hips and your knees pulled up.
- Twist gently to one side and stop when you feel your hips tuck up off the table or mat. Keep your upper body in place.
- Bring your knees back in the other direction.
- Repeat 25 to 30 times.
“Half Jacks” Exercise
- Step into a resistance band and pull it up over your thighs.
- Stand up straight and then jump into the air, letting your feet land apart flat-footed.
- Your legs should be a little wider than shoulder-width apart in a semi-squat position and your upper body tilted over slightly.
- Do 10-12 reps, and you’ll start seeing results in no time!
Reverse Clam Shell
- Start by lying on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, and place your hand on your hip.
- Use your glute muscles to lift your top knee up as high as possible while keeping your feet touching. You should start to feel the stretch in your hips and glutes.
- Hold for 10 seconds and then lower back down.
- Repeat 10 times on each side.
- Lie on your right side with your legs stacked and bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Place your right hand on the floor in front of you for support.
- Using your left hand, lift your upper body off the floor and open your legs so your feet are in line with each other.
- Hold for two seconds, then slowly close your legs and lower your upper body back down to the starting position.
- Repeat 10-15 times, then switch sides and repeat with your left leg lifted.
“Speed Skaters” Exercise
- Place a resistance band around your ankles. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Tuck your pelvis to lengthen your lower spine. Make sure both knees are facing forward.
- Lift your right leg straight back. Hold the position for two seconds.
- Slowly put your leg to the starting position.
- Repeat 12-15 times.
- Lie flat on your stomach on a yoga mat.
- Bring your elbows to your sides, and put your hands above your shoulders. Fully extend your legs and keep your hips flush with your mat.
- While lifting your chest off the mat, pull your shoulder blades in and back.
- Hold the position for 5 seconds, keeping your hips and legs remain in contact with the mat. Keep your neck long and lined with your upper spine for the duration.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat 15 to 20 times.
Relieving Hip Pain
For effective pain relief, focus on strengthening the muscles around your hip. This will help support your joint and take some pressure off it. You can do strength-training exercises a few times per week. Aim for at least 10 minutes of motion exercises every day.
How Do I Get Started With Physical Therapy For Hip Pain?
Getting started with a physical therapy program involves getting a referral from your primary care provider. Once you meet with your physical therapist, you’ll get assessed and receive a set of stretching exercises to help improve functional mobility. Physical therapy is an important part of your journey toward pain relief, so it’s important that it’s done correctly and with a doctor’s guidance.