7 Great Moves to Help Sore Hips

Do more to improve your range of motion and help your hips feel better with these anytime, anywhere exercises.

Brittany Risher
Mature woman holding the back of her hip

“Move it or lose it” is the name of the game when it comes to your hips. While the first reaction to aches and pain in this part of the body is often to put your feet up and rest, it can actually be more beneficial to keep moving. 

That’s because many times too much rest and not enough motion are what lead to stiff, sore hips in the first place, says Lauren Shroyer, a certified athletic trainer with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). In fact, a sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor to the hip and knee pain that half of all older adults experience, states a 2019 report in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners.

“When you’re sitting, the hip flexor muscle group is held in a short position,” explains Shroyer. “If you do a lot of sitting, your hips get used to that position. So much so that when you go to stand, these muscles often do not return to their full length. This causes a pull on the pelvis and lower spine that causes a ripple effect, changing the position of the hip joint and surrounding muscles.”

On the other hand, she says, the more you move around throughout the day, the better off your hips will be. And she’s not talking about doing more dedicated workouts. Keeping active with chores, hobbies, short walks and stretch breaks are also important. All of that movement helps maintain the full range of motion in your hips. In turn, you may experience decreased pain and stiffness and benefit from improved functionality and mobility, found a 2019 review in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 

And the better you can move, the more freedom and independence you’ll maintain as you get older. “Movement is life,” says Robert Linkul, a certified personal trainer who specializes in working with older adults. 

“The hips are the primary joints that articulate the activities of daily life, including walking, sitting, standing, bending, getting up off the floor and going up and down stairs. The second we stop moving, we start regressing,” says Linkul.

Why Your Hips May Start Hurting

As Linkul notes, your hips are a ball-and-socket joint. They’re attached to muscles by elasticized tendons and ligaments that give your hip the flexibility and stability that it needs to power you through your day. 

Unfortunately, this huge responsibility leaves hips vulnerable to the wear and tear of daily activities that stack up over a lifetime, says Linkul. That’s where the dozens of muscles that support your hips come in. Your glutes, thighs and the muscles in your lower back — and more — need to stay strong to keep your hips stable all day long. 

Where can things go wrong? Take a look at some of the more common reasons that hip pain strikes.

Obesity. Along with a sedentary lifestyle, obesity is a major source of hip pain among older adults, notes a 2019 report in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners.

Osteoarthritis. This is the most common form of arthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic. It develops when the cushiony cartilage at the end of the bones wears down. It can affect any joint, but the hip makes the list of top four most affected joints. 

Hip fractures. As we age, our bones weaken, making them more vulnerable to fractures.

Bone spurs. Osteoarthritis can lead to these aggravating growths along the edges of the bone.

Bursitis. Our hips and other joints have small fluid-filled sacs between the bones and soft tissues called bursae. These can become inflamed, causing bursitis.

Tendonitis. Too much activity or exercise that’s too strenuous can inflame the tendons.

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7 Moves to Help Relieve Sore Hips

No matter the cause of your hip pain, “a combination of the right stretches and exercises can be equally beneficial to individuals,” Shroyer says. 

Try the following movements, being mindful of your body’s signals. If anything feels painful, stop. These moves are safe to do every day. But if you’re new to exercise, or are recovering from an injury or surgery, check with your doctor first. 

Stretches for Hips
1. Figure-4 Stretch

  • Sit tall in a sturdy chair and cross your right ankle over your left knee, so that your right shin is in a straight line in front of you. 
  • You may already feel a stretch in this position. If not, you may increase the stretch in two ways: First, use your right hand to push down on your right knee until it is at the level of your left knee. For more of a stretch, lengthen your spine and bring your chest forward, bending at the hip. 
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

2. Hip Flexor Stretch

  • From a kneeling position on the floor, put your left knee on a cushion and your right foot in front of the right hip so that the right knee is directly over the right ankle and the right hip is at a 90-degree angle.
  • If you need more stability, place at least one hand on a nearby couch or coffee table. 
  • Shift your weight forward onto your right foot, holding your abdominal muscles tight to support your pelvis and spine. Breathe normally. 
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Exercises for Sore Hips
1. Hip Hinge

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. 
  • Keeping your back straight, push your hips back and lower your torso by hinging at the hips — not your lower back. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings (the backs of your upper legs). Only go as far as you can without rounding your back.
  • Pause, then return to the starting position. 
  • Do 10 repetitions. Rest for 2 minutes and do another 10 reps. Rest again for 2 minutes and do 10 more reps.
  • If you cannot do 10 reps in a row, do as many as your stamina allows and work up to 10.

2. Chair Sit

  • Sit tall in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands on top of your legs. 
  • Press your heels into the floor and stand up. Try to do this without using your hands or arms for leverage. 
  • With control, lower yourself back onto the chair by bending at the hip and then knee. 
  • Do 10 repetitions. Rest for 2 minutes and do another 10 reps. Rest again for 2 minutes and do 10 more reps.
  • If you cannot do 10 reps in a row, do as many as your stamina allows and work up to 10.

Variation: If you’d like extra support, put the chair in front of a door frame or sink where you can hold on to a stable surface and use your arm strength to pull while you push into the floor. A chair with arms works well for this same purpose.

3. Glute Bridge

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Push into your heels and lift your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. 
  • Squeeze your glutes, then lower slowly to the starting position.
  • Do 15 repetitions. Rest for 2 minutes and do another 15 reps. Rest again for 2 minutes and do 15 more reps.
  • If you cannot do 15 reps in a row, do as many as your stamina allows and work up to 15.

4. Lateral Lunge

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step directly to the right with your right foot, keeping the right foot parallel to the left as it hits the ground. Step only as far as is comfortable. (For extra balance support, do this in front of the kitchen sink and hold onto the sink basin.) 
  • When your right foot is flat on the ground, bend at the hip and then at the knee, as if you are going to sit on a chair behind you. 
  • Keeping your right and left foot flat on the ground, stand up by pushing the right foot into the floor to bring your right foot back to the starting position. 
  • Do 10 repetitions and repeat on the opposite side. Rest for 2 minutes and do another 10 reps on each side. Rest again for 2 minutes and do 10 more reps on each side.
  • If you cannot do 10 reps in a row, do as many as your stamina allows and work up to 10.

5. Step-Up

  • Stand in front of a step, bench or supportive platform. (Choose something with a height that you can successfully step onto.)
  • Place your left foot firmly on the step. Keeping your torso upright, push your left heel and midfoot into the step to drive your body up onto the step in one action. You can place your right foot down on the step or, for more of a challenge, let that foot hang off the step.
  • Once you have your balance, lower your right foot carefully and slowly back to the ground. 
  • You can leave your left foot on the step throughout the exercise, or for more of a challenge, lower it back to the floor with each rep.
  • Do 10 repetitions and repeat on the opposite side. Rest for 2 minutes and do another 10 reps on each side. Rest again for 2 minutes and do 10 more reps on each side.
  • If you cannot do 10 reps in a row, do as many as your stamina allows and work up to 10.

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