Hip pain is a common and frustrating complaint that can be caused by many things—everything from athletic injuries and pinched nerves to arthritis or osteoporosis. The truth is, everything in your body is connected and in order to alleviate hip pain, you’ll want to not only work the hip flexors themselves but the surrounding muscles that support them. (Did you know that even your feet and ankles have a role to play in supporting your hips and keeping them pain-free?) Let’s learn more about what can cause hip tightness and then learn seven exercises to relieve tight hips.
What Causes Tight Hips?
Hip tightness or pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time
- Injury to the hips
- Overuse by excessive running or exercise
- Constantly crossing your legs while you sit
- Tendonitis or bursitis of the hip
- Problems with your psoas muscle
That last point is important. The psoas muscle (pronounced “so-as”) is actually a very common cause of hip pain, and you may not have even heard of it. Let’s learn more about what the psoas does and how it can contribute to hip tightness or pain.
How The Psoas Muscle Contributes To Hip Tightness
Your psoas is essentially the deepest muscle in your core, responsible not just for hip rotation and extension but virtually every movement you make, whether it’s walking, jogging, or just standing tall. The psoas is thick, acting as the only muscle that connects the upper body to the lower body (the lumbar vertebrae to the femur).
If your psoas is weak it can cause postural problems and hip pain or tightness. A weak psoas muscle causes the hips and quadriceps to work overtime, resulting in a chronic feeling of hip tightness and even back pain. It’s an often-overlooked cause of tight hips! Now that you know what may be causing your hip tightness, let’s do something about it, shall we?
7 Exercises To Relieve Tight Hips
These exercises focus on strengthening and stretching your hips, glutes, and yes—that sneaky psoas muscle—so you can be pain-free once again. From yoga poses to resistance band moves, these seven moves will relieve tight hips and help you get back to the workouts and everyday activities you enjoy. Practice these exercises 2-3 times per week or as needed to relieve tight hips.*
*Web MD recommends that you see a doctor if your hip pain results in sudden swelling or the inability to move or bear weight on the affected leg.
Bridge pose is a fantastic yoga move for opening up and stretching your hip flexors.
- Lie on the floor on your back, with knees bent and arms on your side.
- Slowly raise your glutes off the floor until your body is straight from your knees to your shoulders.
- Hold pose for 8 to 10 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.
2. Leg Lifts
This exercise will wake up your glutes and legs and help strengthen your hips.
- Start on all fours with right leg extended long on mat.
- Squeeze right glute and hamstring to lift right leg up towards the ceiling. Slowly lower and repeat for desired number of reps. Make sure to keep abs tight and back straight.
3. Pigeon Pose
Pigeon pose is one of the best hip openers out there—this traditional yoga pose also feels restorative, too.
- Begin in plank position. Tighten your abdominals and pull your right knee toward your right hand, placing your right foot as close to your left hand as you can.
- Keep you back leg long and hips even as you relax your weight through the middle of your hips.
- Slowly begin to lower your chest over your front shin, relaxing forehead on the mat and arms stretched overhead.
- Breathe and hold for 30 seconds. Slowly lift chest up, step back into plank and switch sides.
4. Happy Baby Pose
Happy baby is a great way to stretch out your spine, legs, and hips at the same time.
- Begin lying on your back and grab your big toes with your index and middle fingers.
- Gently draw toes down so knees pull toward shoulders. Keep elbows gently pressing knees.
- Relax and breathe; hold for 30 seconds.
5. Resistance Band Outer Thigh Press
A resistance band can be a fantastic tool to help strengthen your hips. This move will stretch and strengthen the thighs and hips.
- Lay on your back with legs straight in the air above hips
- Place the center of the band around the bottom of your feet and hold handles together at your chest.
- Press the feet wide open until legs are in a straddle position and band is tight. Release slowly.
This pose stretches hips as well as the chest and abs.
- Begin lying face down on your mat with head slightly lifted and hand sitting directly under shoulders.
- Point your toes so the tops of you feet are on the mat.
- As you exhale, press arms straight and lift upper body and front of hips off the mat.
- Keep your legs and feet relaxed and on the ground.
- Keep your abdominals contracted and breathe slowly.
7. Ankle Circles
You might not have guessed it, but ankles that are tight can often restrict movement in the rest of the lower body, resulting in tight hips or knees. So try this ankle exercise to help tight hips, too!
- Lay on the floor on your back and raise one leg over your head.
- Rotate the extended leg’s ankle clockwise for 10 counts; then counterclockwise for 10 counts.
- Perform on other leg.
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