When it comes to hitting a golf ball further or running faster, some say, “it’s all in the hips.” Turns out, this may be true.
The hips are in the middle of our bodies, so everything that happens above or below them contributes to our success. They are the biggest ball-and-socket joint in our body, with over 33 muscles that attach to the hip bone. Each muscle has a unique job in moving our hips for things like sitting, standing, walking, running, and just about every motion we perform daily. Athletes depend on good hip health to perform at their fullest potential.
But many of us aren’t giving our hips the attention they are due—until we find ourselves at the doctor.
“The most common hip injuries in younger patients are muscle strains or labral tears, and in older patients are osteoarthritis, bursitis and referred pain from the lumbar spine,” said Cody Olson, DO, an orthopedic surgeon at Banner Health Center. “There are some things out of our control when it comes to hip pain, but there are things we can do now to improve our flexibility and mobility that will help our hips in the long run.”
While there are instances where hip pain and injury are unavoidable, such as genetics, rheumatoid arthritis or trauma to the hips, most often they can be avoided. Whether you are in your 20s or 70s, there are things you can do at every age to ensure your hips go the distance.
Here are four ways to be proactive about your hip health:
Maintain a healthy weight
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese. Carrying more weight than you should causes added stress on our hips and increases the amount of pain you may experience, especially for those with arthritis.
“For every 10 pounds of extra body weight you carry, there’s an added 50 pounds of pressure on your hips and knees,” Dr. Olson said. “Studies have shown that losing just a pound can remove about six pounds of pressure off the hips.”
The hip was designed to move, so the more active you are, the stronger and more flexible your hips will be. Even small bits of exercise can help maintain strong muscles, slow bone loss, and improve your balance.
Dr. Olson also recommended cross-training to work different muscle groups. Just make sure to speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Strengthen key muscles
Work on strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and core. Doing things like walking lunges, deadlifts, clamshell exercises, planks, and bridges can help work those groups.
Stretch and Ice Sore Joints
Do you have tight hip flexors? Don’t worry, many of us do thanks to jobs that require a lot of sitting. Make sure to stretch your tight hip flexors, quads, and psoas muscle after your workout and throughout the day. Some of these stretches include the kneeling hip flexor stretch or supine stretch.
If your joints are sore, Dr. Olson also recommended icing to help cut down on pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Exercise, weight loss, and stretching can help relieve hip pain, but it’s important to pay attention to signals your body sends. If pain lingers for more than a few days after exercise, this could be a warning sign. If the severe pain occurs while working out, stop immediately and call your doctor.
“The earlier a hip problem is diagnosed, the better,” Dr. Olson said. “If the pain persists, even after conservative care, such as icing, physical therapy, stretching, and anti-inflammatory medications, see an orthopedic specialist.”