The Worst and Best Exercises for Bad Hips

Rest might seem like the best option when your hips are achy, but moving your body is actually more beneficial than sitting on your bottom. The key to staying mobile is avoiding bad hip exercises and instead choosing activities that improve the range of motion in your hips while decreasing the pain.

Planks are a great exercise for bad hips. (Image: PeopleImages/E+/GettyImages)

Causes of Hip Pain

There are several reasons why your hips might be causing you problems. One of the more common culprits of chronic pain is trochanteric or hip bursitis, which is inflammation of the bursa. According to the Cleveland Clinic, when this bursa, or fluid-filled sac, becomes inflamed, you can experience pain and irritation in your hips.

Dr. Bianca Beldini, DPT, MSOM, LAc, SFMA, tells LIVESTRONG.com that a telltale symptom of bursitis is the inability to lie on the affected side, which is due to pain when compressing the bursa against the bed with body weight. As to the cause of this inflammation, it can be a number of things from an injury or overuse of the joint areas to incorrect posture, bone spurs, or other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Additionally, hip pain can come from other diagnoses such as osteoarthritis, labral tears, muscular imbalances, tendinitis or even a lumbar or sacral dysfunction. The location of the pain gives clues as to what is causing the problem. If your hip joint is the issue, the Mayo Clinic says you will feel pain on the inside of your hip or groin. Whereas, pain on the outside of your hip, glute or upper leg area is typically a result of issues with muscles, ligaments or tendons that surround the joint.

Hip Pain Exercises to Avoid

If you're going to the gym for weight lifting, cardio or fitness classes, or participating in outdoor activities such as running, you may not be aware that some of the workouts you're doing include bad hip exercises.

To get a better idea of moves that trigger pain, rate each exercise using a pain scale and record the information in a notebook. Then, share your findings with your doctor or physical therapist. They will be able to eliminate the bad hip exercises and give you alternative ones to try instead.

In general, hip pain exercises to avoid are heavy load-bearing or high-impact exercises such as running or activities that include jumping such as aerobics classes, plyometrics and certain sports. Heavy weight lifting that involves using your hips or requires an extreme range of motion such as deep squats that go below parallel or lunges should be avoided.

Also, fast walking or running on uneven ground should be put on the hip pain exercises to avoid list. Until your pain subsides, it's also a good idea to avoid doing exercises that require you to lay on the affected side, such as side leg lifts. Once your pain is under control, talk with your doctor or physical therapist about adding these exercises back into your fitness routine.

Best Exercises for Hip Pain

The American Council on Exercise recommends several corrective hip-strengthening exercises for people dealing with tightness, reduced mobility and pain. Some of the more common moves include monster walk, squats with standing abduction, clam shells, elevated plank with hip extension, plank with alternating toe taps and lying adductor lifts. To make these moves more advanced, consider using a Thera-band for added resistance.

Aerobic exercise is still possible with hip pain. Some of the better options for cardio for bad hips include low-impact activities such as walking (on an even surface), swimming, water aerobics and cycling on a stationary bike. And, of course, participating in a regular stretching routine that includes stretches specific for hip pain is essential. Some of the better options include hip flexor stretch, hamstring stretches and butterfly stretch.

Water exercises, in particular, can offer specific benefits for easing hip pain. In addition to being a great aerobic workout, Harvard Health Publishing points out that the water supports your weight, which reduces the stress on your joints.

Plus, there are several exercises such as hip swings and standing side leg raises you can do in the pool that uses the resistance of the water without causing pain to your hips.

Finally, depending on the cause of your hip pain, low to moderate intensity strength training is also recommended. Just be alert to any discomfort that gets worse with certain resistance training exercises. Working with a physical therapist to develop a safe and effective strength training program can help you stay safe and prevent further injury.

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