Exercise is good for all of us, including those suffering from hip pain. In fact, a study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases in 2013 showed that exercise can even prevent or delay hip surgery in people with osteoarthritis of the hip! That is great news. But as anyone with hip osteoarthritis will tell you, it’s hard to exercise as it can make the symptoms much worse. The key is finding the right exercise which can give you the benefits without the severe pain and swelling that can accompany exercise. Always remember to consult your physical therapist or physician before starting on any exercise routine. 

Before beginning your hip exercise routine… 

One of the keys before starting on an exercise regimen to help with hip pain is determining if the pain is the result of bursitis or arthritis. Only your doctor can tell you which one you have but once you do there is one huge difference. 

If you have bursitis what you want to do is stretch to relieve the pain. In essence you want to stretch the hip muscles that sit right on top of the bursae, which is part of the lining of your hip joint. In order to do this you should rest one hand on something sturdy to maintain balance. You then kneel on the leg that’s giving you the pain, and then tilt forward tightening the muscles in your buttocks before leaning away from the side of your hip that hurts. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat once or twice per day. Yes, that’s it. You can do the other side but it’s not strictly necessary.

Before we get to the exercises that help arthritis, a quick tip:

If you have arthritis one of the best tricks you can do is to exercise after a hot shower or hot bath as the heat will decrease the inflammation in the joint. But do not do this if you have bursitis as the heat will only make the pain worse! 

Regardless of whether you’re exercising for arthritis or bursitis pain always remember to stretch properly and safely before doing any exercises. A great way to begin the day in the morning is with exercise and specifically by activating your hips with the bridge exercise: 

  • Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Keep your feet firmly on the floor, about hip width apart.
  • Raise your butt by pressing down through your ankles and activating your glute muscles in your buttocks. You need to keep your abs firm and your knees properly aligned with your ankles so that your body creates a straight line from shoulders to your knees.
  • Remember to hold this position for about 5 seconds before slowly bringing your butt back down to the ground. Do 10 of these to start the day. 

One of the best exercises for people with hip pain is to get into the pool and swim. Not only is swimming wonderfully easy on the joints, it helps put on muscle mass and lose fat all of which can also help with hip joint pain. An added bonus is that you can usually jump into a warm jacuzzi afterwards and bring even more relief to osteoarthritic hip pain.. 

Now let’s get into some simple exercises you can perform at home with minimal or no equipment.

First we will want to stretch our hip abductors out and strengthen them. The hip abductor muscles are responsible for lifting your thigh out to the side. They also stabilize your pelvis when you walk or stand on one leg. The primary hip abductors are the gluteus minimus and medius and the tensor fasciae latae. The sartorius and the piriformis are secondary hip abductors. 

An easy exercise for this is to simply stand straight up with your feet a little ahead of you then to lift one leg up to the side. You want to lift it up as much as you can without it being uncomfortable and return it back down in one smooth motion. You then do the same exact thing with your other leg. Remember it’s ok to use your hands and arms to maintain balance! 

Next, let’s strengthen up the muscles of your inner thighs.

You will need some sort of exercise ball that is fairly large but not too heavy for this exercise. You want to get on the ground on top of an exercise mat or something else slightly padded and have your arms stretched out and pointing toward your feet. Then pick up the exercise ball with your feet and lift your legs so they become perpendicular to the ground. You then squeeze the ball using your inner thigh muscles and repeat this about 10 times. Preferably do 2-3 sets of these 10 squeezes. 

Stay on the mat for this next exercise to stretch the muscles of your outer thighs. Lie down on the pain free side of your body and then raise your leg with the pain about half a foot off the ground. Hold it for a couple of seconds before bringing back down slowly. Repeat about 10 times. Do it on the other side so long as you can, but don’t do it if you have too much pain from just resting on your problematic hip. 

Finally, lets stretch and strengthen our hip muscles.

A great exercise for this is glute squeezes. These are easy to do. Lie on your back with both of your knees bent while your feet are squarely on the ground. Place a folded towel between your knees and then squeeze your knees together around the towel. You want to engage your buttocks for this exercise. Hold the squeeze for about 5 seconds and repeat this 10 times. 

And as stated before, always consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise routine.