Welcome friend! In this post you will learn about the best exercises for hip pain in seniors and if exercise might be something to help with your hip pain.
I have to start by pointing out that this post is not meant as medical information, advice, or as a replacement for a medical diagnosis or a physiotherapeutic program. There are endless possible reasons for hip pain and you need to get a diagnosis from a medical professional to rule out any serious causes. Exercise can cause harm and exacerbate the pain in the worst-case scenario. Exercise at your own risk if you have undiagnosed hip pain.
That said, if you have muscle-based pain, exercise can help strengthen the tissues around the hips, improve circulation and help with pain sensation leading to reduced pain.
Hip pain can be an annoying and debilitating condition that can hinder your ability and motivation to move. It can disturb your sleep severely if the pain is bad enough to wake you up several times a night.
Hip pain can also be a signal of weak and stiff muscles, something you should definitely try to improve as a senior. Weak muscles can lead to reduced ability to move. It can also reduce your balance, increasing the risk of falling.
Improving your physical fitness is important as you age and it has been shown to help with many kinds of pain syndromes.
What Is Hip Pain
By definition hip pain naturally means pain of the hip or hips, but here comes the definition problem. The hip joint and the pelvis are complex areas with dozens of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, fascia, and cartilage. In short, there’s a lot that can go wrong in this area.
What you perceive as hip pain might differ a lot from the next individual. Hip pain can be anything from hip socket pain to buttock pain to lower back or neural pain. Causes can range from osteoarthritis to sciatica to piriformis syndrome or simple mechanical irritation. Some people mix lower back pain with hip pain.
The muscles and bones of hips are very robust, the strongest in your body in fact because they have to support your whole body weight anytime you walk, run, jump, or anything involving an upright posture.
Actually most non-upright forms of movement use the large muscles of your hips as well, including swimming and cycling.
Since the hips are under so much strain, they are prone to overuse injuries and pain from misalignments. There are several large muscle groups surrounding the hips, including the glutes, the hamstrings, the hip flexors, the ITB band.
Any one of these muscles can become irritated. But more importantly, these muscles help keep your hip joints healthy by ensuring the correct movement of the joint and by providing reinforcement around the joint.
A weak and tight muscle gets irritated very easily when it’s exerted. You can basically suffer from overuse irritation even if you are not very active because the muscles have gotten weak and tight and can’t handle the workload of normal walking anymore for example.
Tight muscles can cause misalignments that lead to overuse in opposing muscle groups.
Hip pain can also be caused by compression or mechanical irritation. This can happen for example if you are bedridden and lay a lot on your side. Your hips will get sore before they will start to develop actual bedsores. The same can happen with excessive sitting.
Let’s look at how exercise can help with hip pain.
How Exercise Can Help With Hip Pain
Exercise can help with hip pain in several ways. One of the most common reasons for hip pain is irritation of the deep glute muscles surrounding the hip joint, including the piriformis.
These muscles get tight and weak when you are sedentary or sit a lot. They can also atrophy if you lose a lot of body weight and don’t perform any kind of strength training, especially as you age.
The most direct way exercise can help with hip pain is by improving the functioning of the muscles of the hips. Strong and mobile muscles will ensure the correct functioning of the joints and they will have better work capacity.
Exercise will also increase blood flow in the area helping with tissue regeneration in case of injuries or pain due to compression.
Exercise can help with hip pain even if it’s due to neural pain or arthritis because exercise has been shown to reduce pain perception and improve mental health. Chronic pain conditions are often associated with depression and low mood.
Let’s look at the best forms of exercise for hip pain.
Walking is a great form of exercise for most hip pain that reacts well to exercise. Walking is actually great for health and well-being in general, it’s what our bodies are built to do.
Walking will gently activate the muscles of the hip, improving circulation and reducing pain and inflammation.
With walking it’s very easy to control your pace and distance so the risk of overuse that would exacerbate the pain is low if you listen to your body.
Weight gain can affect and cause hip pain because of the increased strain of the additional weight on the hip joints. Walking is great for weight management.
Walking also offers the mental benefits of exercise for pain, reducing pain perception, and improving mood.
Stretching is a great exercise for hip pain if it’s caused by tight and weak muscles. You need to build both mobility and strength to get your hips working correctly and pain-free.
If you have been sedentary or not exercised a lot in the past couple of years, it’s very likely you will have some tightness in your glutes, hamstring,s and hip flexors.
A very easy way to start opening these muscle groups is to start a daily stretching routine for these muscle groups. 10 to 20 minutes before bed is great for example. You can learn more about hip stretches here.
Stretching improves your flexibility and mobility and it reduces tension in the stretched muscles. Sometimes this will offer an immediate reduction in pain.
As the last form of exercise for hip pain, I recommend strength training. Strength training is superior to cardiovascular exercise like walking or jogging in improving muscle strength and mass.
Hip pain can be caused and exacerbated by reduced muscles mass surrounding the hips, so strength training is the optimal form of exercise for correcting the issues if this is the cause in your case.
Wrong kind of strength training can also cause hip pain, so it’s important to choose the correct movements and learn the proper techniques. In fact, I recommend that you don’t perform strength training on your own if you are suffering from hip pain. Consult a physiotherapist or a certified trainer to ensure you are training correctly.
Especially movements that involve the hips and legs are beneficial for improving hip strength. It’ important to learn to use your hips correctly for lifting, so functional movements like squats and Romanian deadlifts are likely most effective.
You can learn more about hip strengthening strength training here.
I hope you found this post about hip pain exercises for seniors useful and it offered you some help in your situation. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you.
Hip pain can be a real annoyance but fortunately, it’s often treatable. It’s important to rule out any serious medical causes so you don’t make things worse by introducing the wrong kind of exercise.
That said, exercise can often help significantly, sometimes dramatically with different kinds of musculoskeletal pains.
As a recap; with hip pain, it’s usually good to combine low-impact cardio like walking with stretching and low-intensity strength training to build mobility and strength.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!