Hip Pain Exercises - 4 Strategies to Improve your Training

corrective exercise hip flexibility hip pain mindfulness Dec 01, 2020
Using Play as Exercise for Hip Pain

I truly believe that corrective exercise, executed properly, can help manage and even relieve stubborn hip pain.  However, not every exercise or training program is created equal.  Potatoes are healthy until you fry them with canola oil and dip them into ketchup.  I love french fries but let’s be honest, I’m no longer eating a potato. 

Similarly,  there are some exercise strategies out there that might feel good or provide some value but they are not going to help with hip pain.  Crossfit is a great training modality but probably not good for someone in chronic hip pain.  Yoga is an excellent movement practice but for those who are in debilitating hip pain and stiff as a board, it may not be the right time for it. 

From personal experience of going through hip pain and now working with many clients, below are four recommended exercise strategies for hip pain I think you should try if you're looking to finally be pain-free. 

(1)  Focus on Exercises that Strengthen your Hip 

This is the first recommendation for a reason.  I’d say 9 out of every 10 clients I see are weak in the lower body.  This includes compound full-body movements like squats and deadlifts but also isolated hip movements like hip extension, hip flexion hip internal rotation, etc. 

The first step is to identify where you are weakest.  Find the low-hanging fruit and create a training plan around those weaknesses. After a cycle of 5-6 weeks, you can retest and see if you should stay with it or focus on different areas. 

(2) Select Exercises that Improve Hip Flexibility  

For some reason, many of those in hip pain think that being stiff and immobile is some kind of genetic ailment they were cursed with.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Becoming flexible as an adult is possible.  It’s not easy but it’s possible. 

It takes consistency, patience, and effort.  But it can be done. Like with strength, it’s very important to test what your low hanging fruit is. If we don’t measure, we’re just guessing. 

Another misconception about stretching is that it can only be done passively with long static holds.  This works for some people (like yogis) but most adults would benefit from some loaded stretching.  This is when we use an external load to get us deeper into a stretch. 

(3) Mindfulness Is Real and it Matters

When I have a client that becomes relatively strong and flexible but they just can’t shake a lingering pain sensation in the hip, I know we need to work on some mindfulness.  No, it’s not “all in their heads” but becoming aware of their relationship to the pain can make a dramatic impact. 

Personally, mindfulness has provided great benefits in my life. Without it, I’d probably be chasing every new pain sensation in my body and trying to figure out how to “fix” it.  We’re all different and for some, mindfulness will be more important than others.   But becoming more aware of how our response to the pain affects the pain can be helpful for everyone. 

(4) Have Fun and Explore Different Movements

This is the last strategy because I think it is important to work on the other strategies first before exploring.  Eventually, though, it’s helpful to step out of an organized training cycle and explore what your body is capable of.  Do something fun! 

Maybe it’s hiking, climbing, dancing, or just freestyling around your room to see what feels loose or stiff.  Not only is this playful and fun but it also gives us feedback on where we’ve improved and where we’re still limited.  

The stronger and more flexible we get, the more time we can spend exploring movement for fun.  This is the point anyway. The sooner we can stop thinking about movement as something we have to do to get out of pain and the more we do it as something we truly enjoy, the better our bodies, hearts, and minds will feel! 

Final Thoughts 

These strategies are obviously very general.  I recommend anyone exploring corrective exercise to help manage pain work with someone that really understands movement.   What is important is that this person doesn’t have to be someone who markets themselves as a pain expert. 

If you’re weak, find a strength expert.  If you’re stiff, find a flexibility expert.  If you’re obsessing over your pain, find a therapist.  Understanding which of the above areas give you the most trouble will help you identify what type of guidance you need.  

Wishing you healthy movement,