Why Does It Matter If My Hips Are Stiff?

Hip Pain

Hip PainWe get many patients who complain of tightness or stiff hips, but blame it on age and say there is nothing that can change that. It’s true as we age, our muscles become less pliable and arthritis can make our joints feel more stiff. However, we can improve our mobility and strength to allow us to stay active and keep the stiffening effects of arthritis at bay for as long as possible.

I HEARD MY HIPS CAN CAUSE BACK PAIN?

The most common reason our hips are stiff is a lack of movement or sustained sitting. When we sit often and for long periods of time the muscles on the front of our hips get tight and stay tight. Our body adapts to the positions it’s in more frequently. It may not seem like a huge deal, but if our hip flexors are tight it can lead us to feeling like we are slightly bent forward or crouched when we walk which can affect our back, knees, or ankles. It also can cause our pelvis to be more anteriorly or forward tilted which can lead to an excessive curvature of the back. Tight hip flexors can also change how we walk by not allowing our leg to trail behind us as far so we may have to shorten our step length or be unable to walk as far without feeling some discomfort in back or hips. These positions can cause more issues lower down your body including worsening knee or ankle pain from changing how you walk, bend, lift objects, etc. At the same time weakness in our hips can also be a contributing factor and it can be difficult to distinguish on your own what your specific issue is. This is where I would recommend trying a combination of stretching and strengthening for a time and if it’s not working, seek out a professional who can help you make a better plan tailored to your body.

I’M GETTING OLDER, CAN I EVEN GET MORE FLEXIBILITY?

YES! YES! YES! As we get older, we may get less active and find ourselves sitting more but that doesn’t mean we have to stop doing things we enjoy or can’t improve the quality of our lives. We tend to lose flexibility and strength because we have stopped needing those things in a sedentary lifestyle. Use it or lose it. If we become more active, start “using it” by doing more of the activities we enjoy with some proper stretching and strengthening we can regain some of the flexibility we once had.

I DON’T LIKE STRETCHING, WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?

Nowadays there are so many other ways to gain flexibility than just sitting down and holding some stretching positions we were taught in gym class years ago. Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Aquatic classes, the list goes on and on for more interactive or social activities that can still improve your flexibility. If none of those sound very exciting, just get moving! A few short walks a day, a little more time moving around your garden, anything to get you in different positions throughout the day instead of the same old routine.

If you are still concerned about what areas you need to stretch or how to incorporate this into a daily routine, talk to a physical therapist. They are able to assess your muscle strength and muscle length to help you make a more customized routine for your specific activities!

If you’d like to jumpstart your stretching routine, take a look at this throwback technique video:

Alyssa Charbonneau, PT, DPT, ATC, Cert-DN
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