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21 Best Stretches for Hip Pain Relief

Whether you’re sitting on your behind all day or participating in triathlons, your hips are hard at work.

You will start to feel an ache and tightness in your pelvis and buttocks that make you shift your weight from side to side to find relief from the pain. As you age, hip pain becomes more common with daily activity and can be one of the biggest pains for runners and cyclists. You have probably tried stretching exercises while sitting to find comfort from the throbbing, but the only true way to battle the hip pain is with stretches and exercises that focus on strengthening your hip over time.

Stretches for Hip Pain
Hip-Physical-Therapy-Exercises

As a Sports Medicine Doctor at Mayo Clinic, I see many patients with lower back and hip pain, so I’ve put together my top physical therapy stretches for hip pain that I recommend.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

Hip strengthening exercises bring the area relief and are a great way to combat recurrent pain, whether it be arthritic pain or acute hip pain from excessive exercise. Also, Hip strengthening exercises bring the area relief and are a great way to combat recurrent pain. With strength training, you will learn to move easier. Hip pain is a complicated complaint that can be caused by a variety of things but learning how to strengthen your hips correctly will go a long way towards bringing you much-needed abatement.

Understanding Hip Pain

Most refer to the hip joint as the ‘ball and socket’ because of the way that the round head of the thigh Most refer to the hip joint as the ‘ball and socket’ because of the way that the round head of the thigh bone is cupped within the pelvic bone. Ligaments and muscles hold the large joint in place. Sadly, the joint is often struck by osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but there are ways to protect the joints by strengthening the muscles to create a firm foundation. Also, you might not know your hip is what controls your leg and knee. If you have knee pain, then you might favor the leg and place extra strain on the hip which can lead to hip joint pain as it strives to compensate.

Physical Therapy Stretches and Exercises for Hip Pain

Warm-ups are crucial for helping to slowly prepare your body for the workout ahead and prevent excessive pain. The blood flow increases to your muscles, your joints become looser, and your heart rate increases. Skipping warm-ups could make your hip pain worse in the long run.

As with any workout, your goal is strength training to build strong, dependable muscles. Performing exercises for hip pain improves not only your muscles but also your hip joint which might prevent the need for hip replacements as you age.

Here is a list of simple exercises and common stretches for patients with hip pain that can be done at home as part of your private exercise routine. Each exercise is easy to perform and helps build muscle while combating discomfort. You won’t feel like you must jump through hoops to find relief because the various simple stretches are easy to perform and doable for any age.

If you start to feel intense pain during any of these workouts, that means you’re going too far. None of these workouts should cause persistent pain. If you feel sudden pain during flexibility exercises, stop and check in with your doctor. Always pay attention to your pain levels.

Lateral Pendulum (Warm-Up)

A warm-up of your hips is imperative to prevent injury and get the most out of a workout. Lateral pendulum leg swings help boost the range of motion in the muscles located on the outside and inside of your hip to create stability.

Lateral Pendulum Warm Up
  1. Keeping your foot flat on the floor, swing your left leg from side to side in front of you.
  2. Try not to move or rotate your body when swinging your legs.
  3. Swing each leg from side to side ten times.

Forward Pendulums (Warm-Up): Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises

The forward pendulum warms up your hip flexors and hamstrings making this one of the best hip flexors strengthening exercises. Use the wall for support as you warm up for your hip strengthening exercises on your hamstrings & glutes. This is a great warm-up if you have tight hip flexors or anterior hip pain.

Forward Pendulums
  1. With one foot flat on the floor, swing your left leg forward and back.
  2. Keep your posture straight and do not bend your knees.
  3. Swing your right leg forward and back to get the blood flowing in your hips.
  4. Repeat 10 swings for each leg.
  5. Never aggressively swing your legs. Take it slow and easy to loosen your muscles in preparation for the real workout.

Standing Quad Stretch

With the Standing Quad Stretch, you will work out the quadriceps while loosening your hips. Take this exercise slow and easy so you don’t strain your lower back.

Standing Quad Stretch
  1. Stand with feet placed hip-width apart.
  2. Suck in abdominals.
  3. Loosen your shoulders.
  4. Bend your left knee and keep the support leg straight.
  5. Pull your heel back towards your buttocks.
  6. Grasp your left foot with your right hand.
  7. Hold this position and feel a gentle stretch in the front of your leg.
  8. Repeat with the other leg.

Basic Hamstring Stretch

Do you suffer from tight hamstrings? Give the basic hamstring stretch a try to help extend your gluteal muscles and improve daily functions such as walking. Gradually increase the stretch over time to improve flexibility.

Basic Hamstring Stretch
  1. Sit your butt down on the floor with your legs stretched straight out in front of you.
  2. Reach forward with your arms and palms on the floor by bending your upper body at the waist while keeping your knees flat
  3. Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds.
  4. Return your body to a seated position and repeat three times.

IT Band Stretch

Your iliotibial band crosses your knee and can often benefit from a good stretch. Physical therapists frequently employ the IT Band Stretch. Focusing attention on the IT band through stretches can provide a lot of relief over time.

It Band Stretch
  1. Lie on your back
  2. Keep your knees bent and put one leg on top.
  3. Reach behind your body and grab your ankle so you feel an immediate tightness in your quadriceps.
  4. Pull back gently and release
  5. Place the bottom of your foot so it is positioned on the side of your top knee.
  6. Pull the top of your foot down towards the floor so it lays elongated on the outside part of your top thigh.
  7. Repeat each leg three to five times.

Hip Flexor Stretch & Rotation

The Hip Flexor Stretch & Rotation is an effective, easy exercise for people with hip pain. It will loosen up your hip muscles.

Hip Flexor Stretch & Rotation
  1. With one knee bent, kneel onto your left leg.
  2. Place your right foot on the floor in front of your body.
  3. Lean forward so your left hip stretches towards the floor.
  4. Squeeze your buttocks so your hip flexor stretches.
  5. Hold the position for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes.
  6. Repeat by switching sides.

Standing Hip Flexor Stretch

The Standing Hip Flexor Stretch is a great way to stretch your quadriceps and hip flexors and relieve hip pain. However, take care to maintain your balance.

Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
  1. With your feet flat on the floor, take your left foot and step forward while keeping your right knee bent.
  2. Tuck your buttocks so they are held tight under your hips.
  3. Feel the stretch in the front of your hip and along your upper thigh.
  4. Hold and repeat with your right leg.
  5. Perform four to five sets.

Pigeon Stretch

The Pigeon is a Yoga pose that opens your hips. You’ll be able to do one hip at a time with the pigeon stretch. Exercise caution when doing yoga with hip pain, as it may rapidly fatigue muscles on your hip and increase your pain. Do only what feels comfortable.

Pigeon Hip Stretch
  1. Bend your right knee while sitting and extend your left leg straight behind you.
  2. Pull your right heel towards your left hip.
  3. Your left hip should be pointed downward so your hip starts to open.
  4. Rest your hands on your right thigh and remain in the position. You can also slowly walk your hands out in front, so your torso bends downwards and rests across your right knee.
  5. Repeat the pose for the other leg.

If you’re experiencing tightness in your hip flexor muscles, this is a great stretch to help loosen up. It also helps loosen your middle back.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
  1. Put one knee on the floor in a kneeling position. 
  2. Bring the arm of the same side up straight and slightly back.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds before releasing.
  4. Perform this stretch 3 times on each side to stretch hip flexors. 

Single-Leg Bridges

Give your hamstrings, quads, and glutes a true workout with Single Leg Bridges or pelvic tilts. This exercise is also known to work your upper leg and hip muscles.

Single Leg Bridge
  1. Lie flat on your back in a straight leg raise position.
  2. Place your hands’ palm sides on the floor.
  3. Bend one leg
  4. Slowly lift the other leg upwards
  5. Push downward with your heel on the floor while you lift upwards with your pelvis to place your body in a bridge position.
  6. Lower your body and then repeat performing 15 reps for each side.

Single-Leg Hip Circles

A famous Pilates move, Single-Leg Hip Circles work the quads, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles. This is considered a great beginner’s exercise that improves your range of motion.

Single Leg Hip Circles
  1. Position your body on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips with toes pointed out. Your feet will be spread shoulder width.
  2.  Tighten your core muscles and lift one leg to the side.
  3. Make an expansive circle with your knee up and to the side and front.
  4. Repeat 10 circles forward and then 10 circles backward on each leg.

Single-Leg Glute Kicks (Donkey Kicks)

This is a classic exercise that is often performed with a machine. However, you can do it on your own to work your glutes.

Donkey Kicks
  1. Position your body on all fours.
  2. Extend your left leg out in a kicking motion that is like a donkey kick.
  3. Repeat each side slowly or rapidly.
  4. Hold your leg in a straight position and then a bent position as you kick out so you shift your weight.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat the other side.

Hip Abductor

This is a simple hip stretch that can be done with a stool, bed, chair, table, etc… if you have tight hips.

hip abductor
  1. Place the inside of your ankle against a flat surface, such as a table, bed, chair, etc.
  2. Reach your opposite arm out straight by your side, as if you were reaching up towards the sky.
  3. Lean into the stretching leg and hold for 20 to 30 seconds and release. 
  4. Repeat this stretch 3 times on both sides. 

Glute Stretch

Stretching your glutes is beneficial not only for your glutes and hips but also for your lower back muscles.

glute stretch
  1. Stand facing a flat surface such as a table, bed, or tall chair. 
  2. Put the outside of your foot and knee on the surface, so that your leg is bent at a 90-degree position.
  3. Lean forward at the hip joints while keeping your back straight
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, then let go.
  5. Repeat 3 sets of stretches on each side.

Side-to-Side

This stretch is an easy, calming way to loosen your hips and back. The side-to-side motion can also help with hip rotation.

Side To Side
  1. Begin lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees pulled up
  2. Move your knees gently to one side and stop when you feel your hips start to come off the table or mat. Keep your belly button facing toward the sky.
  3. Bring your knees back the other way and twist them in the other direction.
  4. Repeat 25 to 30 times. 

Plié Squats

Plié Squats open your hips and give you shapely legs. The exercise is popular and relatively easy.

Plié Squats
  1. Spread your feet wider than your hips.
  2. Point your toes at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Place your hands on your hips.
  4. Bend your legs at a 90-degree angle.
  5. Pause and hold the position.
  6. Lift your hips back to a standing position.
  7. Repeat 15 times.

Reverse Clam Shell

Reverse Clam Shells are often used to relieve back and hip pain. The exercise works the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

Reverse Clam Shell
  1. Position yourself on your side with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Place your arm under your head for support
  3. Rotate your foot in an outward direction so it points up towards the ceiling.
  4. Keep your knees together.
  5. Perform 10 sets and then repeat for the opposite side.

Some people use a resistance band to make it even harder to lift and rotate your foot.

Clam Shells

The Clam Shell can be performed with or without using a resistance band. It effectively works your outer thigh, hips, glutes, and pelvis.

Clam Shell
  1. Lay on your side.
  2. Bend your legs at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Place your head on your lower arm.
  4. Suck in your abdominal muscles.
  5. Keeping your feet touching raise your banded upper knee and stretch the band.
  6. Avoid lifting your lower leg from the floor.
  7. Hold the position.
  8. Perform 20 reps for each side.

Glute Back Presses

The Glute Back Presses refer to basic hip thrust. However, you will have your arms behind you pressed into your back for a maximum hip extension and back press. These are often done as PT resistance exercises.

Glute Back Presses
  1. Put an exercise band around your ankles and start with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Tuck your pelvis so that your lower back lengthens and keep both knees facing forward.
  3. Lift your leg straight back and hold the position for two seconds.
  4. Slowly return your leg to the starting position.
  5. Perform 20 reps.

Monster Walks

The Monster Walk is one of the best exercises available to strengthen your glutes and increase hip mobility. It is easy to perform and even fun.

Monster Walks
  1. Use a band that has moderate resistance.
  2. Encircle your ankles with the band.
  3. Keep your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart.
  4. Keep your knees bent at a 45-degree angle.
  5. Walk forward or backward while maintaining constant friction on the band.

Bridge

The Bridge exercise is a common method done to stretch or work out the pelvic muscles and glutes. If you need extra difficulty, grab some light weights and rest them on top of your thighs.

Bridge
  1. Lye on a mat with your knees up and your feet flat a comfortable space away from your hips. 
  2. Keeping your arms on the floor, lift your hips off the ground to make a ‘bridge’.
  3. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, keeping your shoulder blades and neck on the ground, your glutes and abs engaged the whole time.
  4. Slowly lower your hips to the ground. 
  5. Repeat 15 to 20 times. 

Note: To make his exercise more difficult, cross your arms over your chest so you can’t use them to help you. 

Have Hip Pain? Try These Stretches!

Hip pain can be caused by many things including injury, arthritis, bursitis, muscle strain, tendonitis, and more. If you suffer from chronic hip pain, there are several treatments that may help alleviate your symptoms

If you have mild to moderate hip pain, then strengthening exercises and stretches are ideal. However, if you have severe hip pain then you should seek medical advice from a physician or physical therapist who will work with you on strengthening the muscles in a variety of ways. You can also try exercising your glutes and legs with resistance bands.

I hope that the above PT exercises and stretches are beneficial in relieving your hip pain and improving joint mobility. Each one is easy to perform in your home or at the gym and can aid in a speedy recovery.

Photo of author

Dr. Kristina DeMatas

Dr. DeMatas practices holistic, evidence-based family medicine that focuses on treating injuries and transforming lives through prevention, rehabilitation, and diet. She is a licensed, practicing Physician at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. Read bio.

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