PT Exercises for Hip Pain – Verywell Health

Jonathan Cluett, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with subspecialty training in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery.
If you have hip pain, you may benefit from physical therapy exercises to help improve your mobility and ease your pain. Working with a physical therapist (PT) can help determine which exercises are best for your specific condition.
Hip pain often causes loss of range of motion, decreased strength and muscle activation around the hip joint, and pain that limits your ability to walk or run normally. Physical therapy exercises for hip pain can improve your strength and mobility and help you return to your normal activities.
There are many different causes of hip pain. These may include:
If your hip pain was caused by significant trauma, you should visit your physician right away to get it checked out; a serious injury like a fracture may be present, and that needs significant medical care.
Hip pain and impairments may manifest in a variety of symptoms. These may include:
If you have any hip pain or limited mobility, you should check in with your physician. They can help diagnose your problem and get you started on the right treatment.
Physical therapy exercises for hip pain is one treatment that may be effective for you. Exercises may include movements to improve flexibility, strength, and balance.
Hip pain often results in tightness in the muscles or capsule around the joint. Your hip is a ball and socket joint, and it should move through flexion, abduction, extension, and rotation. Tightness in the structures around your hip may pinch on muscles, ligaments, or the joint capsule itself, leading to pain. Pinching or compressing nerves near your hip may also cause pain.
Physical therapy stretches for hip pain can help improve the mobility around your joint. This can take pressure off of muscles, ligaments, or nerves, leading to a decrease or elimination of your pain.
Stretching may also ease hip pain by allowing your hip joint to move fully, improving your functional mobility and decreasing compensatory motions that may be a secondary cause of your pain.
When performing stretching exercises for your hip, you should move slowly into each position until you feel a mild pulling sensation around the area to be stretched. Each stretch should be held for about 60 seconds, and then you should slowly move out of the stretch.
A word of warning: stretching too aggressively or bouncing while you stretch may injure the tissues to be stretched. An excessive tug or pull on a muscle may cause damage, leading to more pain and decreased overall mobility. Remember to move slowly and hold each stretch at its end range position for 60 seconds.
If you are feeling pain during flexibility exercises, stop and check in with your PT. Some physical therapy stretches for hip pain can be modified to allow you to safely stretch without pain.
A 2016 study found that certain weight-bearing yoga poses may rapidly fatigue hip muscles in people with hip pain, leading to increased pain and impaired movement. Caution should be used when performing yoga stretches for hip pain. Working closely with your healthcare practitioner is advised before starting hip stretches.
Hip pain may cause a decrease in muscle activation around your hip. Why? Because pain signals your brain to shut things down a bit so it can assess the damage and allow for some healing to take place. Sometimes, getting muscles started back up again is a challenge, and resistance hip exercises are necessary to do.
Strengthening exercises for your hip can help provide the right amount of support around the joint. This can take pressure off ligaments and nerves, decreasing your hip pain. Improving muscle activation around the joint can also improve your overall functional mobility, allowing you to walk or run freely without pain.
There are different type of resistance exercises for your hip. These may include body weight exercises, resistance band exercises, or weight lifting machines and exercises.
Weight training may not be the best choice if you are experiencing acute hip pain, as this may place excessive stress and strain through your joint, leading to more pain or injury. Some people are able to perform weight training machines, like a leg press or hack squat, under the guidance of their PT and when their pain is at a minimal.
Before starting PT exercises for your hip pain, be sure to visit your physician or physical therapist. They can assess your condition and prescribe the best exercises for your specific condition.
Your hamstrings attach to the pelvis behind your hip and work to bend your knees and extend your hips. Tightness here may cause pain in the back of your hips and limit your ability to move normally. To effectively stretch your hamstrings:
While stretching your hamstrings, you should feel a pull behind your thigh. If you feel pain, stop the stretch and see your PT.
Your hip flexors are located in the front of your hip and thigh and are often tight when you have osteoarthritis or if you sit a lot for work. To stretch your hip flexors:
If your knee on the floor is painful, place a small pillow underneath it to provide a cushion. A slight stretch should be felt in your thigh; intense pain means you're stretching too far. In this case, reduce the amount you slide forward, or stop the stretch and see your PT.
The iliotibial band is a thick band of fascia that courses from your lateral hip to your lateral knee. It does not contract, but it attaches to muscles that contract. Pain in your iliotibial band may be felt in your lateral hip. To stretch your iliotibial band:
Your piriformis muscle is a small, pear-shaped muscle deep in your posterior hip. It resides near the sciatic nerve and often gets tight if you have hip pain due to sciatic nerve irritation. To stretch your piriformis:
If your sciatic nerve is irritated, this stretch may exacerbate it further, causing pain or tingling in your leg. In that case, release the stretch a bit. If pain or tingling persists, see your PT.
Stretching for your hip pain can be done daily. Be sure to see your PT to ensure that you are doing your hip stretches properly.
Physical therapy resistance exercises for your hip pain can be done three to four times each week. The goal of hip strengthening is to improve stability around the joint. This can relieve pressure from nerves and ligaments and can improve mobility of your hips.
The bridge exercise strengthens your gluteus and hamstring muscles that support the back of your hips. To perform the bridge:
Some people with low back pain may have a difficult time performing the bridge and may need to dial back the challenge a bit. A safe alternative may be performing a posterior pelvic tilt. Your PT is a good resource to check in with if the bridge causes pain.
When the bridge becomes easy, you can make it more challenging by performing a single leg bridge:
Straight leg raises are simple, yet effective, exercises to strengthen your hip flexors, hip abductors, or gluteus muscles. To properly perform straight leg raises:
To strengthen your gluteus medius on the side of your hip:
To strengthen your gluteus maximus in the back of your hip perform the straight leg raise on your stomach. Here's how:
Be sure to stop performing the exercises if you feel any pain that lasts after you perform the exercise. You can make the straight leg raising exercises more challenging by placing a small two or three pound cuff weight around your lower leg.
Monster walking can help improve hip strength in a variety of muscle groups. It also has the added benefit of being a weight bearing exercise. Here is how to perform monster walking:
To strengthen your gluteus maximus muscles in the back of your hip:
Hip hikers are a great body weight exercise to strengthen your gluteus medius on the lateral aspect of your hips. Here is how you do it:
Some people with groin and anterior hip pain from FAI or osteoarthritis may feel a pinching sensation in their inner groin when performing this exercise. If this happens, stop the movement and check in with your PT.
If you have hip pain, you may benefit from working with a PT to help you fully recover. Your therapist will assess your condition and prescribe exercises to help improve your hip mobility and strength. That way, you can be sure to quickly and safely return to your previous level of activity.
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Hammer AM, Hammer RL, Lomond KV, O’Connor P. Acute changes of hip joint range of motion using selected clinical stretching procedures: A randomized crossover studyMusculoskeletal Science and Practice. 2017;32:70-77. doi:10.1016/j.msksp.2017.08.011
Adler KL, Kenney R, Messing S, Giordano BD. Activity of periarticular hip musculature during yoga in patients with hip pain: a descriptive study of a case series. J Yoga Phys Ther. 2016;06(04). doi:10.4172/2157-7595.1000259

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