Hip pain is a common complaint among active individuals, the aging community, and even among sedentary people, and can present itself in a variety of ways. When pain occurs around the area of the hip, daily activities are often affected since we use our hips for the majority of our mobility and stability in weight-bearing, including: sitting, standing, squatting and walking. Symptoms can result from a trauma (such as falling), over-working, or it can just come on insidiously. Often, symptoms are felt in the groin or buttock area, and are described as local, sore, and achy. At times, the symptoms may feel sharp, diffuse, or appear to travel from the low back or go down the leg.
Hip pain can originate from several structures, such as the joint itself from general wear-and-tear resulting in osteoarthritis or pinching of the labrum (cartilage around the socket which adds stability and depth to the hip joint), or from the attaching muscles (such as the piriformis, gluteus medius, hamstrings or psoas, to name a few). When hip pain occurs, it is often uncomfortable to sit for prolonged periods without pain or to place the hip into end-range stretched positions. If low back pain is associated with the hip pain, the hip pain may be a result of a spinal issue that is best assessed by a physical therapist.
Hip activities which may help reduce your hip symptoms include light stretching, application of ice (if it is a new injury during the first week (20 minutes per hour), or application of heat if it is a chronic issue. Stretches include:
– Hamstring stretch: sitting in a figure-4 position, lean forward over your outstretched leg maintaining an upright trunk to feel a light stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times, 3x/day.
– Hip flexor stretch: start in a half-lunge position, with one leg bent in front and the other leg outstretch behind you. Stay tall and shift your body weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh of your back leg, while keeping your buttock tucked underneath you. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times, 3x/day.
– Quad stretch: standing on one leg, pull the non-supporting foot towards your buttock. Maintain the knee in line with other knee close by. Keep buttock tucked underneath your to feel a stretch in the front of your hip and thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times, 3x/day.
Remember that all stretching exercises should remain comfortable and you should not push into any pain or position that re-creates your symptoms. If you are not experiencing pain, these stretches are still great to use after warming up with physical activity to help prevent any future hip injuries. If you have any questions, contact your physical therapist.