Exercises for Hip Pain

Photo of a woman stretching her groin.
The buttery fly groin stretch can improve thigh flexibility. HRAUN / Getty Images

Sometimes the best way to relieve hip pain is to start moving more. Although rest and recovery can be necessary to heal an injury, sitting for too long puts added stress on the hips. The right types of exercises build strength, alleviate pain, improve your range of motion, and help protect your hips in the long haul.

Precautions

Always consult with your doctor before starting a new workout program. If your hip pain feels worse after exercise, you may need other forms of treatment. Getting a proper diagnosis for the underlying causes of your hip pain can prevent you from exacerbating the issue or damaging your joint.

Stretching Relieves Hip Pain

Stretching relieves hip pain by improving circulation and reducing stiffness. Stretching is a simple way to boost your activity level and prepare your body for exercise. It's best to perform stretches after a short warm-up.

Hip Flexor Stretch

The hip flexor targets the muscles necessary to flex your hip, including the iliopsoas, tensor fasciae latae, rectus femoris, and sartorius.

To stretch your hip flexor follow these steps:

  1. Start out in a lunge position (you can put a chair in front of you to hold onto for stability).
  2. Bend your front leg to 90 degrees, keeping your foot flat on the floor and rest your back knee on the ground.
  3. Slowly push your hips forward until you feel a stretch.
  4. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds before switching sides.

Butterfly Stretch

Do the butterfly stretch to loosen your inner thigh muscles. Technically, the butterfly stretch targets your hip adductors, a group of three muscles that begin at your pelvic girdle and end at your femur. They help to pull your legs closed.

To perform a butterfly stretch:

  1. Sit on the ground.
  2. Bend your legs and bring the bottoms of your feet together so they are touching.
  3. Let your knees fall down on each side.
  4. Inch your heels in towards your body.
  5. Slowly lean forward and use your elbows the push your knees down.
  6. Aim for at least 30 seconds of holding the stretch.

Figure Four Stretch

You should feel this figure four stretch in your hips and glutes.

Here's how it's done:

  1. Lie down, flat on your back.
  2. Bend your legs and place your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Place your left ankle over your right knee.
  4. Clasp your hands around the back of your right knee and pull it towards your chest.
  5. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then switch to the other side.

Strengthening Exercises Prevent Hip Pain

Resistance training can strengthen the stabilizing muscles around your hip joint, giving your body more support and reducing your risk of injury. Here are a few exercises to try if you have hip pain.

Bird Dog Pose

Along with working your glutes, the bird dog pose targets your core and arm muscles as well.

For this exercise:

  1. Start by getting down on your hands and knees.
  2. Keep your hands flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart.
  3. Maintain your gaze down or slightly forward, with a straight neck that's in line with your spine.
  4. Engage your core and extend your left arm and right leg in a straight line with the rest of your body.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds before going back to your starting position. Do 5 to 7 reps and repeat on the other side.

If you're struggling to keep your balance, leave both hands down on the floor and perform this exercise with your legs only.

Bridging

The bridge exercise engages your hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps. You'll also get a workout in your upper body and calves. As an added bonus, bridging helps to stretch your hips.

Here's how it's done:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands, palms facing down, by your sides.
  3. Tighten your abs and glutes as you push off your heels to raise your bottom off the ground.
  4. Be careful not to overextend or arch your back. Keep your pelvis in a neutral position.

Straight Leg Raise (on Your Side)

To strengthen your anterior hip flexors and the oblique muscles on the sides of your torso, leg raises are an excellent exercise.

To perform this workout:

  1. Lie on your side
  2. Keep your bottom leg straight or bend it for added stability
  3. With your top leg straight, raise it up in a controlled motion towards the ceiling
  4. Avoid letting your hips roll forward or backward while doing this exercise

Other Exercises for Hip Pain Relief

Staying active through stretching, resistance training, and aerobic workouts helps maintain good health, both physically and mentally. Exercise can improve your balance and range of motion, so you're less likely to become injured. When you're facing chronic pain, a little bit of physical activity can go a long towards boosting your mood.

Here are some of the best ways to exercise when you have hip pain:

  • Barre class
  • Chair yoga
  • Pilates
  • Regular yoga
  • Silver sneakers classes
  • Stationary biking
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Water aerobics

Exercises to Avoid

High-impact workouts are hard on your joints and not recommended for people with hip pain. Avoid walking or hiking on uneven ground, jogging without proper footwear or surface cushioning, jumping, or lifting very heavy weights.

Stay away from lunges and step-ups, which are tough moves to master if your hips are unsteady. Body weight squats may be beneficial, but don't overextend your range of motion. Skip deep squatting or squatting with heavy weights to avoid doing more damage to your body.

If your hip pain impairs your quality of life or ability to manage activities of daily living, you should consider seeing a physical therapist. A physical therapist can teach you safe exercises to improve your condition and reduce pain. Talk to your doctor or health insurance company about getting a referral.

A Word From Verywell

Hip pain may feel like a barrier to enjoying an active lifestyle. Instead of staying home, you can learn targeted exercises and stretches to become stronger and more flexible. You may think that physical activity will make pain worse, but oftentimes, the opposite is true. Using the right moves can work as a natural pain reliever.

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Article Sources
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  2. Carolina Pain Relief Center. 6 simple stretches for hip pain relief.

  3. Arthritis Foundation. Exercise benefits for hip osteoarthritis.

  4. Newcomer L. The best and worst exercises for bad hips. Silver Sneakers. Updated December 21, 2018.

  5. University of Iowa Health Care. Exercises for chronic hip pain. Updated January 1, 2018.