2. Strengthening exercise for hip osteoarthritis
Muscle support around a hip joint with osteoarthritis is of critical importance for controlling joint forces and therefore reducing pain, disability and potentially even the rate of joint deterioration. So, there are lots of great reasons to get and stay strong when you have hip osteoarthritis. It can be difficult though to know which are the best strengthening exercises for hip osteoarthritis. We’ll take you through some key considerations here.
Gluteal or buttock strengthening exercises for hip osteoarthritis
Wherever possible, choose a strengthening exercise for the gluteals (buttock muscles) where your foot is attached to the ground. This weightbearing stimulus is particularly important for the gluteal muscles, whose main focus is to push through your foot to hold your body up and move your body against the downward force of gravity. If your gluteals are weak and/or a bit sleepy, weightbearing or ‘closed-chain’ exercise with your foot on the ground is particularly useful for stimulating these muscles.3
Here are a few great ones to start with and how to do them in comfort at the hips, knees and back.
Top tips for squatting comfortably with hip osteoarthritis
Many people find their hips are aggravated with squatting, but others can’t squat because of knee or back pain. Here are some tips for squatting comfortably.
- Don’t squat as deep. Deep squatting repetitively beyond a 90° hip bend may aggravate your hip (and knee) pain.
- Slow down. Rapid actions might mean you move into painful ranges before you are aware. Slow it down, keep it controlled and this is much better for strengthening too. Take 3 seconds to move down and another 3 to come back up.
- Use a sitting down action. Your knees will be much more comfortable, and your hip muscles will get much more stimulus if you move your hips back first, rather than pushing your knees forward. Imagine you are going to sit down and move half-way through that sitting action. Full sit-stands can be provocative, so start with ‘half-sits’.
- Get your tail out but avoid excessive arching. Think tail out (tip of your tailbone), rather than letting your tail drop to point towards the floor. However, avoid overarching your back, as this may give you back pain – relax a little & don’t stick your chest out.
- Keep equal weight between your legs. Don’t let your painfree or less painful side do all the work. Keep your weight even to ensure you are strengthening the weaker side.
- Don’t let your knees drop in. Keep your thighs parallel and knees pointing straight ahead, or if your hips are more comfortable in a turned-out position, that’s fine – just keep your knees pointing in about the same direction as your toes.
Top tips for bridging comfortably with hip osteoarthritis
Some people find their hips are aggravated with squatting, but others can’t squat because of back pain. Here are some tips for bridging (sometimes called a pelvic lift) comfortably.
- Don’t lift as high. Pushing up to the extremes of your hip extension range may aggravate your hips and your back.
- Slow down. You are less likely to aggravate your hips and more likely to stimulate those muscles with a slower action – 3 seconds up and 3 seconds down.
- Dump the bands around the knees. While bands around the knees are commonly recommended to increase gluteal stimulus, it can aggravate some hips and make the muscles stiffer. If you are sore after a hip workout including banded bridges – dump the band.
Top tips for standing on one leg comfortably with hip osteoarthritis
Standing on one leg is a great weightbearing exercise to stimulate the deeper gluteals – the hip abductor muscles, but sometimes this can be very challenging or painful. Here are some tips for practising standing on one leg comfortably.
- Hold on to something. If you are doing this exercise to improve hip strength, remove the balance challenge initially and just get comfortable. Lots of wiggling might irritate your hips.
- Don’t sag on your hip. Sagging on your hip can irritate the joint and tendons around the hip. Grow tall and keep your hip in from the side.
- Start with short holds. Your endurance will probably not be great at first, so start with short holds of even 5-10 seconds.
Hip flexor exercises for hip arthritis
While most people are aware that strengthening the buttock muscles is important for hip arthritis, the hip flexors regularly get forgotten. They get stretched a lot, which might be actually making things worse (read more on this below) but are not often strengthened. However, these muscles are often weak in people with hip arthritis are this might make it more difficult to lift your leg to dress, walk upstairs, get out of the car or out of bed.
Tips for performing a simple exercise for hip flexor strengthening with hip osteoarthritis
- Perch on a high stool or bench. This will mean you can exercise through a range that doesn’t force your hip up into a high degree of hip pain. Make sure you are safe and perching on a stable structure.
- Lift only through a comfortable range. Slowly lift the thigh to the horizontal, or through the comfortable range you have available.
- Don’t twist your thigh. Keep your knee in front of your hip and your ankle under your knee.
- Stay up tall. Grow gently tall through your head and try to reduce bending and rotation of your back and pelvis.
Hydrotherapy – strengthening exercises for hip osteoarthritis in the pool
There is scientific evidence to show that exercise in water can help those with osteoarthritis.4 Also, hydrotherapy performed in warm water, can assist with pain and relaxing muscles. If you are finding it difficult to exercise on land, then in a warm pool might be a great place for you to start.
Strategies to reduce hip pain during hydrotherapy – water-based strengthening
- As with cardio exercise in the pool, some things can still be aggravating when performing strengthening exercises for hip osteoarthritis in water. Here are some strategies to help:
- Reduce backwards walking. Reduce or avoid backwards walking to keep your hip happier.
- Use smaller hip actions. Particularly when you are first starting hydrotherapy, don’t try too hard and push beyond your limits. Avoid moving your hip rapidly or forcefully into the end of your range of motion.
- Minimise twisting actions. Hip arthritis is commonly aggravated by twisting action, particularly if they are done in a rapid, uncontrolled manner.
- Slow down and control your hip actions. Your hips are less likely to be aggravated if you slow down a little, particularly at first until you see how your hip copes. To get more resistance from the water, you will usually need to move a little faster than with land-based strengthening exercises but start slow and always ensure you have good control of your hip actions.
Gym strengthening exercise for hip osteoarthritis
Will joining a gym be useful for hip osteoarthritis?
The gym is full of opportunity to perform some of the best exercises for hip osteoarthritis. There are plenty of strengthening exercises you can do, as well as the variety of cardio options we’ve discussed above. You can progress squatting and bridging exercises demonstrated above by adding some weights at the gym. Start light and get some professional instruction before lifting weights at the gym for hip arthritis.
Strategies to reduce hip pain when exercising at the gym
While weights can be fantastic for building strength around the hips, certain exercises can really aggravate hip pain related to arthritis. We have already covered this topic in detail in 2 previous blogs, so we suggest you head to those blogs in you’d like to read more on this topic.
|Which gym exercises should I avoid for hip pain?
|Ways to reduce hip pain at the gym