Exercises and stretches for hip pain
In this article, we describe 14 exercises that can help strengthen the hips, improve joint mobility, and relieve hip pain.
Considerations before starting
Flexibility and strength exercises are key to relieving hip pain. Although these exercises may result in temporary discomfort, they should not cause or aggravate pain. If an exercise causes pain, stop doing it or try going at a slower or gentler pace.
Individuals who have recently had a hip replacement should consult a doctor or physical therapist before performing any of the exercises below.
The first four exercises stretch the muscles around the hip joint, which can help reduce stiffness and improve joint mobility.
A person should perform these exercises at times when they are feeling the least amount of pain and stiffness. A good time to do them is after a warm shower or bath when the muscles are most relaxed.
Begin with one or two exercises a day, three times a week. If this feels comfortable, try doing several exercises once a day.
The aim of these exercises is to strengthen the hip muscles to better support the hip joint, which can help relieve pain.
Resistance training is a form of exercise for developing muscular strength. In resistance training, a person uses either low weights or their body mass to create resistance for their muscles to work against.
People who experience hip pain or discomfort for more than an hour following these exercises should reduce the number of repetitions accordingly.
1. Knee lift
To perform knee lifts:
- Lie on the back, extending both legs flat along the floor.
- Keeping the left leg straight, pull the right knee up toward the chest.
- Place both hands on top of the knee to help pull it in toward the chest.
- Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
- Let go of the knee and gently lower the leg back toward the floor.
Repeat this exercise 5–10 times on each knee.
2. External hip rotation
To perform external hip rotations:
- Sit on the floor with both legs out in front.
- Bend the legs at the knees and press the soles of the feet together.
- Place a hand on top of each knee and gently push them both down toward the floor. Apply pressure to the knees until there is a stretch, but do not push them further than is comfortable.
- Hold the stretch for 10 seconds and then relax.
Repeat the stretch 5–10 times.
3. Double hip rotation
To perform double hip rotations:
- Lie flat on the back. Then, bend the knees and bring them toward the body until the feet are flat on the floor.
- Gently rotate the knees to the left, lowering them toward the floor. Rotate the head to face the right while keeping the shoulders against the floor.
- Hold this position for 20–30 seconds.
- Slowly return both the head and knees to the starting position.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
4. Hip and lower back stretch
To perform hip and lower back stretches:
- Lying flat on the back, bend the knees and bring them toward the body until the feet are flat on the floor.
- Using the hands, pull both knees in toward the chest.
- Breathe deeply, pulling the knees closer to the shoulders with each exhalation.
- Go as far as is comfortable, then hold the position for 20–30 seconds. Breathe normally.
5. Hip flexion
To perform hip flexions:
- Stand upright.
- Extend one arm out to the side and hold on to a sturdy surface, such as a wall, table, or chair, for support.
- Slowly raise the right knee to the level of the hip or as far as is comfortable while keeping the left leg straight.
- Only hold this position for a second before placing the left foot back on the floor.
- Repeat with the left knee.
Do 5–10 repetitions of this exercise.
6. Hip extension
To perform hip extensions:
- Stand upright with the legs straight and the feet shoulder-width apart.
- Extend both arms out in front and hold on to a chair, table, or wall for support.
- Keeping the right leg straight, lift the left leg backward without bending the knee.
- Lift the leg as far as possible without causing discomfort, then clench the buttock tightly and hold the position for 5 seconds.
Repeat this stretch 5–10 times on each leg. To increase the resistance, try attaching small weights to the legs.
7. Hip abduction
To perform hip abduction exercises:
- Stand upright.
- Extend the left arm out to the side and hold on to something solid, such as a chair, table, or wall.
- Starting with the feet together, lift the right leg out to the right side. Keep the left leg straight and avoid rotating the hips.
- Hold the position for 5 seconds and then slowly return the leg to the starting position.
Do this exercise 5–10 times on one leg, then repeat it on the other side.
8. Heel-to-buttock exercise
To perform heel-to-buttock exercises:
- Stand upright with the legs straight and the feet shoulder-width apart. For support, hold on to a chair, table, or wall.
- Bending the left knee, bring the heel up toward the left buttock with the top of the foot facing the floor. Be sure to keep the right leg straight and align the knees.
- Slowly lower the leg and return to the starting position.
- Repeat the exercise on the opposite side.
Aim to do 5–10 repetitions on each leg.
9. Mini squat
To perform mini squats:
- Stand upright with the feet shoulder-width apart.
- If necessary, hold on to a chair, table, or wall for support.
- Keeping the back straight, gently lower the body by bending the knees until they are above the toes. The feet should remain flat on the ground.
- Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly straighten the legs to return to the starting position.
Repeat these mini squats 5–10 times.
10. Short-arc quadriceps exercise
To perform short-arc quadriceps exercises:
- Lie flat on the back with a pillow or rolled-up towel beneath the right knee.
- Slide the left foot back toward the buttock, bending the knee.
- Slowly lift the right foot off the floor while keeping the back of the right knee pressed against the pillow or towel.
- Hold the position for 5 seconds and then gently lower the right leg back to the starting position.
Do 5–10 lifts on one leg and then switch to the opposite leg.
11. Quadriceps exercise
To perform quadriceps exercises:
- Lie flat on the back and keep the legs straight throughout the exercise.
- Push the backs of both knees toward the floor and flex both feet by pulling the toes toward the body.
- Hold the position for 5 seconds, then relax.
Do 5–10 repetitions.
To perform a bridge:
- Lie on the back, bending both legs at the knee and placing the feet flat on the floor. Keep the arms by the sides of the body with the palms facing downward. If necessary, place a small pillow underneath the neck and head for support.
- Slowly lift the pelvis and lower back upward. Be sure to keep the shoulders and upper body on the floor.
- Hold the position for 5 seconds.
- Gradually lower the back and pelvis toward the floor, starting at the top of the spine. Roll down through the spine until the entire back is flat against the floor again.
Repeat this exercise 5–10 times.
13. Chair stand
To perform a chair stand:
- Position a chair so that its back is resting against a wall.
- Sitting on the front part of the seat, bend the knees and place the feet flat on the floor. Cross the arms, placing each hand on the opposite shoulder.
- Pivoting at the hips, recline back into the chair.
- Lean the upper body forward again and then slowly stand up. Keep the back, shoulders, and head straight while doing this.
- Slowly sit back down and return to the original position.
Repeat this exercise 4–6 times to begin with before gradually building up to 12 repetitions.
14. Abdominal exercise
To perform abdominal exercises:
- Lie on the back, bending the legs at the knees and placing the feet flat on the floor.
- Tuck both hands underneath the lower back.
- Focus on the muscles in the lower abdomen and pull the bellybutton downward.
- Hold this for 20 seconds and then relax.
Repeat this exercise 5–10 times.
Gently stretching and exercising the hips can help relieve pain, increase mobility, and strengthen muscles. There are many exercises to choose from, but people can experiment to find the ones that work best for them and then incorporate these exercises into a routine.
A person can also work with a physical therapist to design an individualized exercise plan to suit their needs.
People with severe, persistent, or worsening hip pain should see a doctor. It is important to stop or reduce any exercises that cause or aggravate hip pain.