Updated: Feb 1
Hip pain can be a serious problem when it comes to mobility and doing the things you love. There are several reasons why hip joints can become painful, however arthritis is one of the top causes.
Arthritis causes nearly 450,000 Americans to undergo hip replacements each year!
Having said this, arthritis and hip pain is not something that just impacts older adults-I am seeing this in younger and younger people as well.
As a matter of fact, I often find that those that undergo a hip replacement actually had hip pain for years leading up to the surgery.
This early hip pain can be a sign that there is weakness in the muscles around the hips that led to increased forces going through the hip joint. These increased forces that go unchecked into the hip joint can be a significant cause of arthritis and subsequently-hip surgery.
Therefore, keeping the muscles around the hips strong and balanced can go a long way in preventing hip pain and arthritis in the first place.
The muscles that are important for hip joint support are the gluteals muscles and they are made up of three sets of fibers: gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus. The gluteus medius and gluteus maximus are the most common to be found weak and therefore, the two I recommend you focusing on.
1. Gluteus medius- these fibers sit towards the side of the buttocks and its job is to raise the leg out to the side and stabilize the pelvis from side to side when we are standing and walking.
2. Gluteus maximus- these fibers lie towards the back of the buttocks, what one would think of the “cheek” of the "butt". Its role is to extend the leg behind you and stabilize the pelvis from front to back when we are moving around and being active.
These muscles become weak with increased sitting and inactivity, decreased walking, and tightening of the front of the hip (also due to prolonged sitting).
Please know, this can happen even in someone who works long hours sitting on technology or at a desk station. This happens very slowly, so after several months and years, one can have weakness of these muscles without even being aware of it.
So, what can you do to strengthen your glutes? Well, there is a great many exercises out there, but I want to share with you two, that I start many of my patients with.
These are not necessarily strenuous or cause you to break a sweat, rather I focus on technique and the ability to do them slowly and with control. In this way, you activate the glute fibers properly and allow them to build strength so as not to compensate by using other muscles.
Once you can perform these exercises well, with good control, then you can add in more challenging exercises to build your strength.
1. Clam Shell Exercise for the gluteus medius:
Start by lying on your right side with knees bent. Keeping your feet together, lift your left knee towards the ceiling and hold for 3 seconds.
D0 NOT let your body roll backwards. VERY SLOWLY lower your leg down.
Do 12 repetitions and then flip over to do on the other side. Focus on doing this slowly and with control.
2. Bridge for gluteus maximus:
Start lying on your back with your knees bent, bring your feet as close to your bottom as is comfortable on your knees. Turn your palms up and pull your toes back so that you are on your heels.
Pushing down into your heels, lift your hips off of the floor as high as you comfortably can. Hold for 3 seconds and then SLOWLY lower down. Repeat for a set of 12 repetitions.
Once you can do this well, cross your hands over your chest and work the bridge exercise in this position.
Work on these once a day or every other day to build your strength at the gluteals. Once you can do 1 set of 12 comfortably, then add a second set of 12.
These two exercises - if done with good form - can be extremely effective in isolating the fibers of these muscles.
Keeping these muscles strong can be just the thing to relieve hip pain and/or avoid hip pain it all together, as well as keeping you as active as you want to be! Give them a shot.
Stay Well & Feel Good,
Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
Hi! I am Dr. Kim MacDonald. I am a physical therapist who specializes in empowering my patients to optimize how they move their bodies and improve their ability to do the things they love regardless of age, experience, or capabilities.
My experience in the health care field allows me to teach the tools you need to ensure that you are working safely to improve your pain and maximize your physical potential.
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