You stretch and stretch, but still, the dull aching hip pain still comes back. And sometimes, with a vengeance. It’s impeding your everyday life — climbing stairs, walking around the house, or even sitting cross-legged hurts.
Unfortunately, hip bursitis won’t be alleviated with excess stretching and it can be difficult to perform your regular exercise routine with this type of hip pain.
Luckily, there are still a few exercises you can do with hip bursitis to relieve any discomfort and strengthen your hip.
What Is Hip Bursitis?
Between your bones and connective tissues (such as ligaments and tendons), there sits a small, gel-like pillow.
This “pillow” is called the bursa sac and acts as a sort of shock absorber for your joints — especially the hips, shoulders, and knees. Bursitis within a given joint means there is excess inflammation of the bursa sac.
This can occur through a traumatic injury (like a fall) or repetitive wear and tear. Hip bursitis is often accompanied by a sharp pain that eventually becomes a constant dull ache over time.
There may be occasional tenderness around the hip or pain that extends from the hip down the side or back of your leg. This pain tends to feel worse after prolonged or repetitive activity as well.
What Causes Hip Bursitis?
There are a number of things that can cause hip bursitis, from a direct fall on your hip to running too many miles. Let’s take a look at some of those things that put you at risk.
While overuse and traumatic injuries are the most common, many individuals who suffer from arthritis and other degenerative diseases are likely to experience this type of hip pain.
Prior surgeries and biological causes should also be considered.
When you walk and move, the IT band — an extension of your hip muscles that runs along the outside of the thigh and connects to the knee — slides back and forth over the hip joint. Right along the bursa.
While the solution seems simple — simply taking pressure off the IT band — the execution is less so.
Temporary solutions include walking with a cane or minor stretching. However, there are long-term solutions and lifestyle changes that can help as well.
For instance, sleeping with a pillow between your legs can help relieve pressure every night. As well, certain daily exercises can help relieve pressure and strengthen the surrounding muscle to reduce hip pain.
Exercising with Hip Bursitis: Do’s and Don’ts
Dr. John Ryan, an orthopedic surgeon, and sports medicine specialist who focuses on hip preservation at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center claims there’s an underlying injury to a tendon or an impingement that is making bursitis worse.
“In most cases, it’s not bursitis that’s the primary culprit. It’s the tendons being the primary culprit,” Ryan says.
With that in mind, exercises that help strengthen the tendons and the muscles surrounding them can be helpful for alleviating symptoms.
Movements that move the leg outward helps the IT band to relax in a non-compressed position. These are the better option according to Ryan.
“Aggressive stretching is probably not the best idea and can be counterproductive in some cases,” Ryan says.
Exercises to Avoid Hip Bursitis
What scientists like Ryan are beginning to learn is that stretching or foam rolling the IT Band is ineffective in certain cases and can actually intensify the pain. When dealing with hip bursitis, it’s best to avoid the following:
- IT Band Stretch: When you’re stretching and leaning to one side, you tend to put more pressure on the bursa via the IT band.
- Glute Stretch: This type of activity compresses the IT band over the bone, hitting sore spots and creating more pain.
- Posture Changes: repetitive use or poor posture can cause increased pressure and strain on the impacted area.
In order to combat these activities that aggravate hip pain, actively sit/stand in more neutral positions and avoid standing on one leg or leaning to one side, and avoid these other posture mistakes.
These simple changes to day-to-day movements that you’re probably not thinking about can actually make a difference.
Best Standing Hip Bursitis Exercises
While some stretching can be a short-term option to help alleviate the pain but strengthening the surrounding muscle will help keep the pain away.
Muscles that work well will protect joints from unnecessary wear and tear because muscle function and muscle balance help absorb the forces that affect the joints.
Regular exercise encourages good muscle function and can avoid potential joint pain over time.
Standing Ball Squeeze
- Stand up straight with your feet in a close, comfortable stance.
- Place a ball or rolled-up towel between your legs, just above the knees.
- Without shifting your feet, squeeze the ball or towel inward for 10 seconds. Relax.
- Repeat 5-10 times.
Standing Leg Kicks
- Stand upright with a chair or wall in front of you for support.
- Shift your weight to your left leg and then slowly lift your right leg out to the side.
- Be sure to not lean and maintain your upright posture the whole time.
- Repeat 10 times per leg.
Standing Buns Squeeze
- Stand up straight with your feet in a close, comfortable stance.
- Without actually shifting your feet, try to force the ground away with your heels. This will fire up all the muscles in your backside.
- Stay in this clenched position for 10 seconds. Relax.
- Repeat 5 times.
If you are looking for more simple exercises that are joint friendly and perfect if you are 50, 60 or 70 years old or beyond… I recommend our 8 Week Feel Good Strength method.
The exercises are “isometric” which means you don’t even move but you still improve your strength. And they are easy to do! Learn more about Feel Good Strength here.
- Stand upright. While holding a chair or wall for support, slowly raise your right knee to hip-level (or as far as is comfortable) while keeping the left leg straight.
- Hold this position for a 3 seconds before placing your foot back on the floor and lifting the opposite leg.
- Repeat 10 times on each leg.
While these hip bursitis exercises are a great place to start, there are many other strategies to help reduce excess inflammation and reduce hip pain.
For example, aquatic aerobic exercises can help those in too much pain to perform standing exercises (as the water’s buoyancy makes moving easier on the joints).
Another great option for exercising with hip pain is the stationary bike. If standing is too difficult at the moment, even with assistance, a bike can relieve that unnecessary pressure until you are strong enough to stand without pain.
Finally, one of the reasons hip pain can start is because of misalignment in your knee. By using a medical-grade knee compression sleeve, you can support your knees and hips more effectively to reduce the pressure and strain on your hips.