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Hip stretches for pain! Especially for those who sit a lot.

Hip stretches for pain! Especially for those who sit a lot.

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
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How to relieve hip pain.

Hip pain can be from a variety of structures in the hip joint, around the hip, or neighboring the hip! That can make relieving your hip pain on your own a bit tricky. If you are like most and wondering what the fastest way to relive hip pain is, the answer would be to get a detailed physical examination from a medical professional who specializes in these symptoms, like a physical therapist! They would be able to look at your body and how you move, and tease out what structures are impacting your pain. However, it is totally normal to want to try to improve your hip pain on your own first! These two hip stretches are a great starting place to target muscles in the front and back of the hip that can get tight on all of us, especially if we spend a decent amount of our day sitting.

If you are like most and wondering what the fastest way to relive hip pain is, the answer would be to get a detailed physical examination from a medical professional who specializes in these symptoms, like a physical therapist!

Hip pain from sitting.

There's a reason that James Levine, Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic said "Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death." Any prolonged periods of inactivity, especially in less physically demanding positions such as sitting, is bad for our body. But can we really get hip pain from sitting? Shouldn't hip pain be from an injury?

That would make sense! But sadly, no. When we sit, the muscles in the front of our hips (hip flexors) rest in a shortened position. When our knees are bent, the muscles in the back of our thighs (hamstrings) are also resting in a shortened position. Our body does its very best to keep us alive without overextending any resources. So, if you have the habit of sitting for prolonged periods of time with your muscles in shortened positions, your body adapts to meet this position. That can make things uncomfortable when you stand up and try to walk again because those muscles are being asked to work in an elongated position.

Top two stretches for hip pain.

Now that we know that hip pain can be from a variety of different causes AND that sitting can contribute to muscular hip pain, lets talk about the two best hip stretches for this. These are two fundamental physical therapy stretches that I use the most (nearly every week)! The first focuses on stretching your hamstrings and the second incorporates your hip flexors and quadriceps muscles. Check out this video to run you through the stretches in detail.

The strap is a must! I have seen people use all kinds of bands and other objects like a pants belt, yoga strap, or gait belt but the strap is the best way to achieve a good stretch with the greatest amount of comfort. This strap has multiple loops throughout so it is really easy to leverage.

Strap to use for hip stretches for pain
Leg stretch laying down on your back

Are there stretches for lower back and hip pain?

Yes! Our hips and our lower back are neighbors. They share some overlapping muscles, ligaments, and bony surfaces just as you and your neighbor have some shared yard space. When we stretch the muscles in the front and back of our legs, this influences the relationship between our lower back and hips.

This hip flexor stretch is an excellent stretch for our lower back as our hip flexor muscles snake through our pelvic and connect to our lower lumbar spine! If our hip flexors are tight (like if we sit in a chair for a long time), they can cause more of a pull on our lower back when we stand up or walk!

Our hip flexor muscles directly connect to our lower back, so stretching our hip flexors can help our hips and back!

Another common stretch for lower back and hip pain is called the piriformis stretch. The piriformis muscle runs from the triangle bone at the bottom of our spine (called the sacrum) to the outer most aspect of the hip, called out greater trochanter. If you lie on your back, bend both knees up like you're going to do a sit up. Then, place the ankle of the leg you want to stretch right on top of your other knee. You should feel a stretch in your back pocket area. If you have a stretching buddy, you can do the same stretch like the picture below.

Piriformis stretch being completed for hip pain
Piriformis stretch to help with leg stiffness and pain

Hip pain exercises to avoid.

Stretches should always make you feel better afterwards. If a stretch is making you feel worse, your body is telling you "hey, this might not be the best option for us right now". Depending on if we have pain in the front or back of the hip or outside hip pain, stretches should be tailored to the muscles that live there. Outside hip pain usually responds well to slow gluteal strengthening (like a clam shell or side lying leg raise) and possibly adding in a IT-band stretch whereas pain in the front of the hip usually responds better to the stretches in the above video.

Instead of focusing on certain hip pain exercises to avoid, shift your focus to listening to your body's stop light.

When it comes to strengthening, it is okay to have muscle soreness around the hip, but it should not be an increase in you similar feeling of pain. Regardless of what exercise you do, if you are feeling a large increase in your specific symptoms 24 hours later, that is a red light. If you feel a mild increase in your symptoms during the exercise and they settle back down to your normal level within 24 hours, that is a yellow light. If you feel great during and after, well great! That is a green light. If this feels too intimidating to tackle on your own, you may benefit from some guided exercise programming.

stretching, pain, and soreness recommendations
Stretching and soreness recommendations

If you want to know more about improving hip and lower back pain check out this free webinar. It covers differences between hip and back pain as well as common treatments for both as well as best evidence for recovery! 

Revision Health Services now offers Telehealth for Florida residents as well as massage and physical therapy locally in Jacksonville, Nocatee, and St. Johns, Florida. To find out if our services could be the best fit for you, reach out and let's chat!

Until next time, stay healthy, keep moving, and take care of yourself.


1. López López, L., Torres, Janet.Rodrí., Rubio, Araceli.Ortí., Torres Sánchez,I., Cabrera Martos, I., Valenza, M.C., Effects of neurodynamic treatment on hamstrings flexibility: Asystematic review and meta-analysis, Physical Therapy in Sports (2019), doi:

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

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