Hip pain is most often caused by chronic stiffness of the hip joint(s). This almost always leads to osteoarthritis, and this causes damage to the joint cartilage and eventually the underlying bone.
Stiffness usually occurs long before you get pain in the hip or notice the stiffness is there.
The most common and problematic restriction is in rotation of the hip joint. It can also be restricted bending forward or backward or moving out to the side. In my experience rotation restriction is almost always present and must be addressed.
Hip joint stiffness is caused by chronic imbalance of the muscles that control the hip – leg, pelvic and lower back muscles, and the consequent imbalance of the bones of the leg, pelvis and lower back.
Hip pain usually occurs long after the stiffness and imbalance has set in.
Stiffness and imbalance are caused by previous trauma – often so minor, or happened so long ago, you can’t remember it – or long term postural strain.
Your body is so good at adapting to low grade, chronic problems that you are usually completely unaware of them for years or even decades.
It’s like the clothes on your body, they are there for so much of the time that you don’t even feel them. Your brain just filters that information out. That’s normal and how it should be, otherwise it would be a constant source of irritation. Our brains look after us better than we realize.
The downside of this for us is that chronic joint stiffness is the forerunner of osteoarthritis, and that is the cause of most hip pain and degeneration.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive and irreversible condition. When the damage is done, it is done. It can’t be fixed but it can be managed.
Arthritis is not the only cause of hip pain. Others include conditions such as Perthes disease, Pagets disease, bursitis, other types of arthritis, gout, bone cancer, osteoporosis and fractures. These problems need appropriate medical treatment.
The Rest of Your Life
If you have arthritic hip pain you MUST get as much flexibility back into your hip joints as you can. This is as easy as stretching for few minutes a day, starting today and continuing every day for the rest of your life.
Sounds like a hassle? Maybe, but no morethan brushing your teeth or showering. Consider your alternative. Increasing hip pain, increasing stiffness, increasing debility, decreasing mobility, decreasing comfort levels and a decreasing quality of life. You will hurt more and sleep less as time goes by. You will do less of the things that you enjoy and the things you still have to do will become more and more irksome and painful. It can make your life a living hell.
Alarmist but True
Hoping the hip pain and stiffness will just go away does not work. It never, ever works. Drugs can help manage pain in the short term but they are simply delaying the inevitable. They do not address the cause, they merely mask the symptom and let the problem get worse. Use them as you need to but do the stretching too.
If you have osteoarthritis in your hip, your doctor will most likely say to you “Just take more and more painkillers or antiinflammatories and when you can’t stand the pain any more, come back and we’ll cut that one out and put a nice new hip joint in.” The only problems with that is the years of pain (often agony) and debility (often crippling), before you ‘qualify’ for a replacement, the expense, and the possible post operative complications!
The only way to effectively deal with chronic joint stiffness is to get into a habit of regular stretching. Doing stretches that address your particular restrictions. Simple, easy and effective.
Ball and Socket
Our hips are a ‘ball and socket’ joint. The ball is the top of your thigh bone or femur and the socket is in your pelvis. They are hard working weight bearing joints designed more for stability than mobility.
Rotation is Important
Your leg can move forwards and backwards and out to the side. What is not so obvious is rotation. This ability to rotate is very important.
Rotation is REALLY Important
When I treat someone with hip pain they almost invariably have restriction in rotation. When I correct this restriction the pain usually decreases and often disappears.
Stand up. Hang on to something solid. With both your legs straight, lift one leg just off the floor. Turn your whole leg in and out a few times. Your foot should be able to turn in 45 degrees and turn out 45 degrees.
45 degrees each way
If you can see and maybe feel that you don’t have 45 degrees of rotation each way, or that one leg is tighter in rotation than the other, that is a problem.
Lie down on your back on your bed or the floor. Bend your knees up so your heels are 1-2 feet, 30-60 cm, from your backside and about 2 feet, 60 cm apart. Let your knees drop as far as they’ll go to the left. Let your right hip lift up as your knees go down, so your spine twists. See how far your knees go down. Then straighten back up, then drop them over to the right. Repeat this a few times.
Ideally, when you go to the left, your left knee will drop down to the floor and your right knee will get down as far as your left foot. And visa versa the other way. If your thighs cant tilt down past 45 degrees, you really need to get those hip joints moving.
Pain now or pain later
If you have a sore hip, the chances are that is the tighter one. Am I right?
If you don’t have a sore hip but one is still tighter than the other, don’t be getting cocky because I can all but guarantee you that it will get painful down the track. Maybe months, maybe years, but it will become a problem.
Noticed a bit of a stiff hip, but followed up with, “Yeah, but it’s not too bad, I can live with that”? Look out, you’ll soon be in big trouble.
Do Something Useful
A really, really useful exercise you can do is the lying down test I suggested you try just up the page. Dropping your knees from side to side for a few minutes before you get out of bed in the mornings – or after a nice hot shower, and for a few minutes every evening before you sleep.
The Further Apart the Better the Stretch
When you do this stretch, the further you have your feet apart, the more it will work your hip joints. Breathe out as you drop your knees to the side, breathe in as you bring them back to the middle and out again as you drop them to the other side.
Check out my Video of how to do this and many other stretches that can help you have a much nicer life.