Physical therapy hip pain

Enjoy the SilverSneakers store!

Your guide to preventing falls, maintaining mobility, and relieving pain for years to come.

If you have hip pain, taking it easy might seem like the best prescription. Rest is sometimes necessary, but hip pain is often a sign that you should embrace more movement.

Too much sitting is the enemy of stiff or achy hips, says Lisa Woods, a personal trainer and yoga teacher in Eagle, Colorado. The big problem, though, isn’t just the discomfort in the sides of your thighs. It’s the chain of pain that dysfunctional hips can create, including sciatic nerve pain that can start in your lower back and go down the backs of your legs.

The hip joint is designed to withstand a fair amount of wear and tear, but it’s not indestructible. For example, when you walk, a cushion of cartilage helps prevent friction as the hip bone moves in its socket. With age and use, this cartilage can wear down or become damaged, or the hip bone itself can be fractured during a fall. In fact, more than 300,000 adults over 65 are hospitalized for hip fractures each year, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The good news: You’re not powerless against hip problems. The right exercise routine can go a long way in helping you prevent falls, maintain mobility, and manage pain.

Here are the best exercises for bad hips and the exercises you should limit or avoid. As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

The Best Exercises for Hip Pain

The first step in fighting hip pain is simple: Move your body. If you sit a lot, even small amounts of movement or standing throughout your day can be beneficial, Woods says.

When it comes to your workouts, low-impact aerobic exercises are generally best and least likely to cause issues, says Kelton Vasileff, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “I recommend swimming, walking, elliptical, cycling, and stationary biking for general exercise,” he says. All of these are great ways to move your body without pounding your joints.

Strength training is another key part of the “do” category, Dr. Vasileff says. “It’s a good idea to focus on quad, hamstring, and glute strength,” he says. These muscles surround your hips and provide support, along with your core—which is another area to focus on. “Strengthening your core helps to normalize your walking pattern and stabilize how your pelvis and hips move,” Dr. Vasileff says. That translates to less pain and better hip mobility.

Try incorporating any or all of the following hip exercises into your routine two or three days per week.

1. Band Side Step

Loop a resistance band above your knees (least resistance), below your knees (medium resistance), or around your ankles (greatest resistance). Bend knees slightly with your feet hip-width apart.

Step to the side until the band provides resistance, then slide your other foot over to re-create your original stance. Repeat this sidestepping movement for 10 to 15 feet in one direction (or as far as you can), and then cover the same distance in the other direction.

Make it easier: Try seated band abductions. With the resistance band tied just below your knees, sit tall with feet about shoulder-width apart. Push your knees outward against the band, pause, and then release. Aim for 10 to 15 reps total.

2. Seated Knee Raise

Sit at the front of your chair with knees bent and feet flat, holding on to the sides for balance. You can do this exercise with eyes open. Or for deeper concentration and a balance challenge, try it with your eyes closed.

With your knee bent, lift your right leg about six inches off the floor (or as far as you can). Hold for three counts, and then lower it back to the floor. Repeat with your left leg for one rep. Do 10 reps total.

3. Seated Leg Extension

Sit toward the front of your chair with knees bent and feet flat, holding on to the sides for balance.

Keeping your left foot planted and upper body still, straighten your right knee until your leg is parallel with the floor. Hold for two counts, and then lower it back to the floor. Do 10 reps on the right, then repeat on the left.

4. Hip Hinge

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hands on hips. Brace your core—imagine you’re about to get punched in the stomach.

Without changing the position of your knees, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor (or as far as you can comfortably go without rounding your back). Pause, then lift your torso back to the starting position. Be sure to squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward to lift your torso back to the starting position. This ensures you’re engaging your hip muscles instead of relying on your lower back. Do 10 reps total.

5. Bird Dog Pose

Start on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the mat or floor and shoulder-width apart. Your neck should be in line with your back, and your gaze should be down or slightly forward.

Brace your core, and raise your left arm and right leg until they’re in line with your body. Hold for five to 10 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side (right arm and left leg) to complete one rep. Aim for five to seven reps total.

Make it easier: Keep your hands on the floor, and only extend your leg.

Connect Eligibility Locations

Subscribe to our newsletter
It’s quick and easy. You could be one of the 13 million people who are eligible.
Already a member? Click to discover our 17,000 participating locations.
Follow Us
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

The Cherry on Top: Yoga

In addition to low-impact cardio and strength exercises like the ones above, yoga can “work wonders for tight hips,” Woods says. The way yoga combines stretching and strengthening the muscles in your hips, legs, and glutes is ideal for helping relieve pain.

A recent study from Florida Atlantic University found that doing 45 minutes of chair yoga twice per week reduced pain and improved overall quality of life in older adults with osteoarthritis. Chair yoga is practiced sitting in a chair or standing while holding the chair for support, so it’s a great option for beginners or anyone dealing with an injury or balance problems.

Whichever style of yoga you try, seek out proper instruction from a yoga teacher to ensure you’re performing postures correctly. And tell your instructor about any pain or injuries before class so they can suggest modifications. Check out SilverSneakers Yoga or yoga classes through SilverSneakers FLEX.

The Worst Exercises for Hip Pain

In general, if an exercise causes pain in your hips, it’s best to avoid it, Dr. Vasileff says. It’s simple but valuable advice. Common pain-inducing activities are pretty predictable, Dr. Vasileff says. They include:

  • Walking on uneven ground or hiking
  • High-impact activities such as faster-pace running or jumping
  • Lifting heavy weights

Dr. Vasileff also advises against any exercises that require extreme ranges of motion, which he defines as more than 90 degrees of bend at the hip or knee. Deep squats are an example of this type of movement.

Woods includes lunges and stepups in the “don’t” category. “It can be difficult for those with troubled hips to maintain proper form in these poses, which places additional strain on the hips,” she says.

Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly

SilverSneakers members can go to thousands of gyms and fitness locations across the nation, plus take exercise classes designed for seniors and led by supportive instructors. If you have a Medicare Plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.

Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive fitness content by logging in to or creating your online account here.

Physical therapy’s role in addressing hip pain

Many of the millions of people dealing with hip pain will see a physical therapist at some point in their journey toward pain relief. A physical therapist is a highly educated, licensed professional who treats a wide variety of injuries, diseases and chronic conditions.

The main goal of physical therapy is to improve your daily quality of life by decreasing your pain and increasing your mobility. If you have pain or difficulty getting up and down from a chair, walking the distance of a grocery store, going up and down stairs, or have been avoiding some of these activities due to pain, stiffness or weakness, it is likely that physical therapy can help.

How can physical therapy help with hip pain?

If your doctor recommends physical therapy, your therapist will examine your strength and range of motion, check your balance and functional abilities (like walking and stair climbing), ask you your goals, and then come up with a personalized treatment plan to relieve your hip pain and restore your mobility.

Physical therapy treatments for hip pain may include: stretching, strengthening, balance training, gait training, joint mobilization/stabilization. Heat, ice, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation may be part of your physical therapy program as well. Your physical therapist can also provide advice on the use of orthotics and assistive devices. Your physical therapist will also work with you to create a comprehensive home exercise program that will help you maintain your quality of life beyond your therapy sessions.

When can hip pain patients benefit from physical therapy?

Depending on the extent of your hip pain and your unique medical history, physical therapy may be a very effective non-surgical means of treatment. For issues like mild to moderate osteoarthritis and some labral tears, studies have shown that physical therapy can improve your quality of life, and in some cases, prevent surgical intervention.

However, if you and your doctor decide that surgery is the best option for you, physical therapy can still be an essential part of your road to recovery both before and after surgery. Your physician may choose to send you to physical therapy prior to surgery for a variety of reasons. The goals of your pre-surgical physical therapy could include strength development, education and development of a home exercise routine. This is known as “pre-hab”.

Research shows many patients who participate in pre-hab sessions with a physical therapist have faster surgical recovery times and need less intensive therapy afterwards. The stronger and more educated you are before surgery, the stronger, more mobile and more confident you will be after.

Additionally, after any type of hip surgery, whether it is an arthroscopic procedure or a partial or total joint replacement, you may be referred to a physical therapist for a short duration to help you regain your mobility, improve your strength and balance, learn how to walk without an assistive device, advance your home exercise program and get back to your previous work, family and recreational activities.

How do I get started with physical therapy?

Almost all insurance plans cover outpatient physical therapy (including Medicare and Medicaid), but you should check with your insurance provider to be sure yours does. In addition, you will need a prescription, or “script”, from a physician. This can be your primary care provider, a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) doctor, or an orthopedic surgeon.

Once you have your “script,” find the Beaumont Health physical therapy clinic closest to you and call for an appointment. We’d love to play a role in helping you overcome hip pain and get back to doing what you love.

Information provided by Yolanda Marie, Beaumont physical therapist.

Try This: 12 Exercises to Relieve Hip and Lower Back Pain

Choose 3 or 4 of these exercises for one workout, completing 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each. Mix and match from session to session, if possible.

Lateral squat

Start with your feet double shoulder-width apart, toes slightly out. Shift your weight to your right leg and push your hips back as if you’re going to sit in a chair.

Drop as low as you can go while keeping your left leg straight. Ensure that your chest stays up and your weight is on your right heel.

Return to start, then repeat the same steps on the other leg. This is one rep.

Side lying leg raise

If you have an exercise band to use during this move, great. If not, bodyweight will certainly do.

Lay on your right side with your legs straight and stacked on top of each other, propping yourself up with your elbow. If you’re using an exercise band, position it just above your knees.

Keeping your hips stacked, engage your core and lift your left leg straight up as far as you can. Slowly lower back down. Repeat on other side.

Fire hydrant

Start on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips.

Keeping your left leg bent, raise it directly out to the side until your thigh is parallel to the floor — like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Ensure your neck and back are straight and your core stays engaged throughout this move. Slowly lower back down. Repeat on other side.

Banded walk

Grab an exercise band and get to steppin’! Place it around your ankles or just above your knees, bend your knees slightly, and side shuffle, feeling your hips working with each step.

Make sure to keep your feet pointing straight ahead while side stepping. After 10 to 12 steps in one direction, stop and go the other way.

Single-leg glute bridge

This is a more advanced move. Popping one leg up during a bridge will wake up your glutes and allow you to really feel a stretch in your stationary hip.

Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor as you would with a regular glute bridge. Extend your right leg before you push yourself off the ground, using your core and glutes to do so.

Donkey kick

Also known as a glute kickback, the donkey kick helps to strengthen the hip by isolating this movement.

To perform, get on all fours. Keeping your right knee bent, lift your left foot up toward the sky. Keep your foot flat during the entirety of the move, engaging your glutes.

Push your foot up toward the ceiling as high as you can without tilting your pelvis for maximum impact.

Physical Therapy For Hip Pain – 5 Exercises For Pain Relief

September 14th, 2018

Hip pain is a condition that is often easily overlooked in everyday life. We may pass it off as something that will eventually get better. However, depending on what is causing your hip pain, it could actually turn out to get worse with time. To prevent this, it’s advisable to visit a physical therapist and have them figure out what’s causing the pain, and create a routine of physical therapy exercises that can help heal it. Typically, in order to help reduce and eventually eliminate the pain, physical therapists for hip pain will give you exercises that improve strength and increase flexibility. Here are a few of the exercises they might give you.

Hip Bridges

This is one of the easiest exercises that you can do to relieve hip pain. It’s simple enough, and all you need to do is lie down on your back, with your knees bent upward and your arms resting by your side. Gently lift your hip off the floor until your body, from your knees to your shoulders, is in a straight line. Hold this pose for a few seconds before you slowly lower your body. Bridges improve hip flexibility and mobility, and can promote faster pain relief.


It’s safe to say that squats are super-exercises. When done right, squats can improve the strength in your hamstrings (which are the muscles on the back of your thigh) and in your quadriceps (which are the muscles in the front of your thigh). Together, these muscles connect with the hip, so strengthening them means your hip gets stronger, and any residual pain from trauma or other causes can be reduced.

Modified Planks

While it may be tough to hold a regular plank with a painful hip, a modified plank can actually prove to be helpful. You need to start by posing on all fours, that is, on your palms and knees. Raise your left leg and your right arm. Stretch the arm forward and the leg back in a straight line with your back. Hold this position for around five seconds and lower the leg and arm to the first position. Repeat this with the opposite leg and arm.

Swiss Ball Crunches

Balancing on the Swiss ball can seem scary for beginners. But crunches performed on a Swiss ball can improve the flexibility and strength in your hip. To correctly perform these crunches, start by sitting on the ball with your feet flat on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest, lean back at a 45-degree angle by bending at your hip, keeping your feet stationary. Then, use your abdominal muscles to steer yourself back to the sitting position.

Hip Stretches

Stretches can be performed to warm up your muscles before a routine or to cool them down after a workout. Hip stretches can improve flexibility by stretching the muscles and relieving tension knots. Some common stretches that can be easily performed are the child’s pose and the twist.

Ideally, you should repeat these exercises. Start off small, then get bigger, and stop if you feel the pain getting worse. Rest and try again when you feel better. And, as always, make sure you’re talking about your exercise plans with a physical therapist for hip pain, so they can tell you whether there are exercises that would work even better for you.

” Back to All Articles

Exercises for Hip Pain

Building strength and increasing flexibility are two ways to reduce hip pain. Strengthening the muscles around the hip helps support the joint and puts less stress on the hip, says Dave Pariser, PT, PhD, assistant professor of physical therapy at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky.

And increasing flexibility can reduce pain. “When you lose flexibility, an abnormal amount of stress can come across the joint,” Pariser says. “If you become less flexible, you have pain and move less, which leads to stiffness and more pain. It becomes a negative cycle.”

Before recommending exercises, physical therapists evaluate their patients to develop a routine that’s appropriate for their specific condition. Pariser says the following exercises, done at home and at the gym, are generally safe for everyone. “If a patient has already received a total hip replacement, however, certain precautions should be taken,” he says.

Exercises for Hip Pain: Working Out at Home

The following exercises can be done on a daily basis. Start with the first exercise and work up to the other variations. These movements are designed to be relaxing, not strenuous.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your gluteal muscles by tightening the cheeks of your buttocks. Hold for five seconds and then release, being sure to breathe while you do it. Work up to 30 repetitions per session.
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten the muscles in your buttocks, then lift your hips off the ground and hold for about five seconds before slowly lowering yourself back down. Be sure to breathe throughout the exercise. As with the first exercise, you can work up to doing 30 repetitions, resting for a few seconds (or longer) between each. “If you start to get tired, stop and rest for a couple of minutes,” Pariser says.
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your buttocks and lift your hips off the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift one foot a couple of inches off the floor. Then put it down and lift the other foot a couple of inches, all while remembering to breathe. “It’s like taking alternate steps,” Pariser says. Work up to doing 30 steps at a time.

Exercises for Hip Pain: Working Out at the Gym

When lifting weights, it’s important to find out how much weight is appropriate for you. Pariser recommends visiting your physical therapist to discuss how to safely lift weights without injuring your hip. “The lightest weight on the machines might be five or 10 pounds,” Pariser says. “That might be too hard for some people.” A good rule of thumb: Always use a weight that’s light enough for you to lift comfortably.

That builds endurance in the muscle and lowers your chance of injury, he says.

Because the design of these machines can differ, it’s best to have a trainer at the gym give you the correct instruction. Work up to 30 repetitions of each exercise and complete them every other day to give your muscles a chance to rest between workouts.

  • Squats. Using a squat machine will strengthen your quadriceps muscles on the front of your thigh and the hamstring muscles on the back of your thigh, both of which attach to your hip and give it support. The squat machine may be vertical, in which case you’ll start in a standing position and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or it may be on a sliding incline board.

    A word of caution: This exercise is not for somebody who has had hip replacement surgery or who has severe arthritis.

  • Quadriceps squeeze. Use the quadriceps machine in which you sit in a chair, place your knee under a pad, and straighten your knee against resistance, Pariser says. Squeeze your quadriceps both when you lift the weight up and when you let it down to get the most out of the exercise.
  • Hamstring squeeze. Use the machine that works your hamstrings; you will either lie on your stomach or sit with a pad behind your knee. Push against the pad, moving your knee up toward the ceiling or backward (depending on which position you’re in). “In other words, bend your knees,” Pariser says. But to avoid cramps in your hamstring muscles, don’t bend your knee so much that your heels are too close to your buttocks.

Exercises for Hip Pain: Working Out With Supervision

When you have help from a physical therapist at a clinic, you’ll have a chance to do exercises beyond what you can do at home or at the gym. The therapist will help move your joint to regain motion until you can do an activity comfortably.

The goal is for you to be able to enjoy exercising. “We want it to be a pleasant experience,” Pariser says. “A big problem is jumping in, doing too much, hurting yourself, and deciding exercise isn’t for you.” Everyone can benefit from exercise, and feel good while doing it.

Pain is a funny thing. Although we hate it, we need it. After all, pain tells us when something is wrong with our bodies. It also severely limits our enjoyment of life. This is especially true of hip pain, which can be debilitating and cause limping and difficulty performing daily tasks.

If you deal with hip pain, you’ll be excited to know that physiotherapy may ease the symptoms that you dread. How? By treating the source of your hip pain. HSS’s article Treatment Options for Hip Pain says, “Physical therapy is an integral component to the multi-faceted team approach of examining and treating hip pain. The hip joint is a very deep joint surrounded by almost 30 muscles. Physical therapy aims to strengthen these muscles, increase flexibility, maintain range of motion of the joint, and decrease the associated inflammation.”

Physiotherapy may not be the first hip-pain treatment that comes to the average person’s mind when considering healthcare solutions to a very painful dilemma. But, it is one that can be powerful enough to provide long-term relief from serious pain. Read on to learn about how a physiotherapist facilitates pain relief.

What Causes Hip Pain?

Hip pain is caused by…

  • Arthritic hip joints
  • Sports injuries
  • Issues with hip muscles
  • Fractures
  • Sciatica
  • Trauma to the hip and pelvis
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hip bursitis
  • Lower back problems (yes, a lower back problem can manifest itself as hip pain)

There are other causes of hip pain. A physiotherapist can easily detect the cause of a person’s hip pain and typically get him or her a diagnosis quickly. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner a treatment plan can be implemented.

How Physiotherapy Eases Hip Pain

Physiotherapy can be excellent at quelling hip pain. Most physiotherapists are proficient at treating this particular type of pain. Before they begin to treat a hip-pain sufferer, however, a PT will pin down what exactly is causing the discomfort. Once the pain’s cause is determined, the physiotherapist can begin prescribing strengthening and mobility-increasing exercises that will make a patient feel better in the long run. A PT may also use electrical stimulation, aquatic therapy, and ultrasound to get a patient’s pain under control. Additionally, massage therapy is often prescribed to individuals with hip pain. Lots of physiotherapy clinics have massage therapists on staff for this very reason.

Physiotherapy Gives Hope to Hip-Pain Sufferers

Who says you have to live with a limp or chronic hip pain or experience difficulty sitting and standing up? These symptoms call for an evaluation with a physiotherapist. Physiotherapy results vary from person to person, but there is always hope. For a hip-pain sufferer, the combination of hope and physiotherapy can be transforming.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *