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, in addition to low back pain, 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 while sitting to find comfort from the throbbing, but the only true way to battle the discomfort is with stretches and exercises for hip problems that focus on strengthening over time.
As a Sports Medicine Doctor at Mayo Clinic, I see many patients with lower back and hip issues, so I’ve put together my top physical therapy stretches for hip pain that I recommend.
To help my patients (and myself), I put together a list of my favorite hip stretches and exercises. You can download a PDF here.
Lateral Pendulum (Warm-Up)
A warm-up 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.
- Keeping your foot flat on the floor, swing your left leg from side to side in front of you.
- Try not to move or rotate your body when swinging your legs.
- Swing each leg from side to side ten times.
Forward Pendulums (Warm-Up): Hip Flexor Strengthening
The forward pendulum warms up your primary hip flexors and hamstrings making this one of the best hip flexion strengthening exercises . Use the wall for support as you warm up for your hip strengthening workout on your hamstrings & glutes. This is a great warm-up if you have tight hip flexors or anterior hip soreness.
- With one foot on the floor, swing your left leg forward and back.
- Keep your posture straight and do not bend your knees.
- Swing your right leg forward and back to get the blood flowing.
- Repeat 10 swings for each leg.
- Never aggressively swing your legs. Take it slow and easy to loosen your muscles in preparation for the real workout.
Standing Quad Stretch
With this quadriceps exercise, you will work out the quadriceps while loosening your tight hip. This is one of the best stretches for tight hips but take this slow and easy so you don’t strain your lower back.
- Stand with feet placed hip-width apart.
- Suck in abdominals.
- Loosen your shoulders.
- Bend your left knee and keep the support leg straight.
- Pull your heel towards your buttocks.
- Grasp your left foot with your right hand.
- Hold this position and feel a gentle stretch in the front of your leg.
- 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.
- Sit your butt down on the floor with your legs stretched straight out in front of you.
- Reach forward with your arms and palms on the floor by bending your upper body at the waist while keeping your knees flat
- Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds.
- 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 can provide a lot of relief over time.
- Lie on your back
- Keep a slight knee lift and put one leg on top.
- Reach behind your body and grab your ankle so you feel an immediate tightness in your quadriceps.
- Pull back gently and release
- Place the bottom of your foot so it is positioned on the side of your top knee.
- Pull the top of your foot down towards the floor so it lays elongated on the outside part of your top thigh.
- Repeat each leg three to five times.
Hip Flexor Stretch & Rotation
Flexor stretches are an effective, easy exercise for people with hip pain. It will loosen up your hip muscles.
- With one knee bent, kneel onto your left leg.
- Place your right foot on the floor in front of your body.
- Lean forward so your left hip stretches towards the floor.
- Squeeze your buttocks to deepen the stretch.
- Hold the position for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes.
- Repeat by switching sides.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
This stretch is a great way to stretch your quadriceps and hip flexors and relieve pain. However, take care to maintain your balance.
- With your feet flat on the floor, take your left foot and step forward while keeping your right knee bent.
- Tuck your buttocks so they are held tight under your hips.
- Feel the stretch in the front of your hip and along your upper thigh.
- Hold and repeat with your right leg.
- Perform four to five sets.
The Pigeon is a Yoga pose that opens up your hip. You’ll be able to do one leg 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 irritation. Do only what feels comfortable.
- Bend your right knee while sitting and extend your left leg straight behind you.
- Pull your right heel towards your left hip.
- Your left hip should be pointed downward so your hip starts to open.
- Rest your hands on your right leg 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.
- 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
- Put one knee on the floor in a kneeling position.
- Bring the arm of the same side up straight and slightly back.
- Hold for 30 seconds before releasing.
- Perform this stretch 3 times on each side to stretch hip flexors.
This hip abduction stretch can be done with a stool, bed, chair, table, etc…
- Place the inside of your ankle against a flat surface, such as a bed, stool, chair, etc.
- Reach your opposite arm out straight by your side, as if you were reaching up towards the sky.
- Lean into the stretching leg and hold for 20 to 30 seconds and release.
- Repeat this stretch 3 times on both sides.
Stretching your glutes is beneficial not only for your glutes but also for relieving back pain; therefore its a great addition to this exercises for hip pain routine.
- Stand facing a flat surface such as a table, bed, or tall chair.
- Put the outside of your foot and knee on the surface, so that your leg is bent at a 90-degree position.
- Lean forward at the hip joints while keeping your back straight
- Hold for 30 seconds, then let go.
- Repeat 3 sets on each side.
This stretch is an easy, calming way to loosen your muscles. The side-to-side motion can also help with external hip rotation.
- Begin by lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees pulled up
- Move your legs gently to one side and stop when you feel your glutes start to come off the table or mat. Keep your belly button facing toward the sky.
- Bring your legs the other way and twist them in the other direction.
- Repeat 25 to 30 times.
Hip issues can be caused by many things including injury, arthritis , bursitis , muscle strain, tendonitis, and more. If you suffer from chronic discomfort, there are several treatments that may help alleviate your symptoms.
If you have mild hip aches, then exercises and stretches are ideal. You can also try exercising your glutes and legs with resistance bands. However, if you have severe pain then you should seek medical recommendations from a healthcare professional.
I hope that the above PT tips are beneficial in relieving your hip discomfort and improving joint mobility. Each one is easy to perform in your home or at the gym, can help you feel good and aid in a speedy recovery.