4 Exercises to Reduce Arthritis Hip Pain


Exercises for arthritis hip pain


Over 8% of Americans have some form of arthritis pain that limits their ability to work or perform daily activities. Among this group, arthritis hip pain is a fairly common complaint and if left untreated can lead to disability. In this article, we explore the causes of arthritis hip pain.

Symptoms of arthritis hip pain include pain, tenderness, stiffness, and loss of flexibility in the hips, groin, and buttocks. Pain and stiffness are usually worse in the morning and after periods of inactivity. Moderate physical activity tends to decrease pain and stiffness but vigorous activity can result in worsened pain. Grating sensations may develop because the cartilage is worn out and bones are scraping against one another.

As the bone ends are unprotected by cartilage, small knobs of bone tissue may develop, known as bone spurs which will increase pain and difficulty. The hip joint may also swell and become tender.


Causes of Arthritis Hip Pain


Arthritis hip pain is most often caused by osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body but is most common in the hands, knees, hips. Arthritis hip pain can also be caused by inflammatory arthritis caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

Osteoarthritis happens when cartilage surrounding the joints gradually wears down. Cartilage and fluid in the joints of the body allow for smooth, pain-free movement of the bones. When cartilage wears down it no longer provides a smooth gliding surface for bone movement.

Osteoarthritis is widely considered to be a disease of aging. Over time, joint tissue will naturally erode. Being overweight puts more pressure on the joints of the body and increases the chances of developing arthritis. Women develop osteoarthritis more often than men. People whose parents had arthritis are more likely to develop arthritis. People who have been athletes or had injuries to joints are more likely to develop arthritis.

Osteoarthritis can be diagnosed with a physical exam which will determine ability to rotate the joint, flexibility and pain assessment. Most arthritis hip pain patients will also need an X-ray to check for abnormalities such as bone spurs and degeneration of the joint tissue. Some patients will require an analysis of the fluid in the hip joint.

Osteoarthritis is initially treated by non-surgical methods including rest, physical therapy, weight loss and medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Some patients with arthritis hip pain will require stronger pain medications such as hydrocodone with acetaminophen. Later stages of osteoarthritis may need to be treated by surgical hip replacement also called arthroplasty.


Inflammatory Arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis conditions can result in arthritis hip pain and are more common in young adults and women. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the joint tissue as if it were foreign material. This causes rapid breakdown of the joints and early development of pain and disability.  Ankylosing Spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the spine and pelvis bones. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks many body systems including skin, organs, and joints.

Inflammatory arthritis conditions will be diagnosed using traditional exam,  X-ray and specific laboratory tests which detect inflammatory chemicals in the blood. Inflammatory arthritis will usually treat with immune modulating medication along with other traditional treatments for arthritis.


Exercises to Reduce Arthritis Hip Pain

Arthritis hip pain can often lead to debilitating pain, stiffness, and loss of function.  If treated early, the progression of the disease can be limited and the need for more invasive procedures can be delayed or avoided.  Exercises for arthritis hip pain are a great way to limit pain and restore functioning.

The hips involve 3 major muscle groups which control movement.  The buttocks muscles, also called the gluteal muscles are used in climbing and getting up from a seated position.  The hip flexors pull the knee upward towards the body. The hip adductors work to bring the legs together.

Strengthening and stretching of these muscles through moderate exercises will help reduce arthritis hip pain even though the joint may be degenerating.

When starting an exercise program it is important to start slowly and progress gradually to avoid overwork of the joint that has contributed to arthritis hip pain.  When exercising for physical therapy purposes, it is also important to not force the muscles or exercise to a point where the pain is increasing. Varying the types of exercises will increase the chance for success.

Here are 4 excellent exercises to reduce arthritis hip pain:


Mobility Stretching

Gentle stretching exercises will improve range of motion and increase flexibility.

Knee-chest pull:

Start by lying on the floor on your back

Bend one knee and clasp your hands below the bent knee on the top part of the shin

Gently pull the knee towards your chest, hold for a count of 5 seconds and release

Switch to the other leg and do the same

Repeat 5 times on each leg


Remember not to force the leg beyond where it hurts. Once you become used to the exercise, you may wish to add a cross over a stretch where the knee is pulled to the chest and then rolled across the body towards the other side.


Front Hip Strengthening

Strengthening the front of the legs and hips will aid in proper posture and help to prevent joint degradation from lack of movement.


Straight leg raise:

Again start by lying on the floor on your back

With one knee bent with the foot on the floor, straighten the other leg

Lift the straight leg towards the ceiling about a foot or so

Hold for a count of 5 and lower

Repeat 5 times for each leg


As you become used to the exercise, you may increase the amount of time held and the number of repetitions. You may also be able to add ankle weights for further strengthening. Remember to breathe during exercise and stop if pain is too intense.


Back Hip Strengthening

Strengthening the back of the hip and gluteal muscles will make it easier to climb stairs and rise from a seated position.


Backward leg raise:

Begin by standing facing counter or chair with hands on surface of counter or on back of stable chair

Shift weight to one foot and straighten the other leg

Lift the straight leg behind you one foot or so off the floor

Hold this position for a count of 5 seconds

Repeat 5 times on each leg


Once you become used to the exercise, you may add additional repetitions, ankle weights and side leg raises to strengthen the side of the hip.


Overall Mobility and Strength Therapy

Water therapy – swimming and water aerobics are low-impact ways to obtain an overall body and hip strengthening while avoiding joint stress. Swimming and performing water exercises such as leg lifts, water jogging, and treading water will strengthen and stretch all of the muscles of the hips and can increase flexibility and improve mobility while decreasing pain.

Water exercises can be accomplished in any swimming pool or some whirlpools and it is better for therapy purposes if the pool is heated to a comfortable level as cold water can sometimes cause pain for arthritis hip pain patients.


4 Exercises to Reduce Arthritis Hip Pain, Last Update: 4/5/2017

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