5 Ways to Injure your Hips
It’s all in the hips.
Hip pain is a pretty common complaint – and something that can be caused by a wide range of different factors – from spending too much time at the gym – to standing the wrong way and placing additional pressure on your bones or muscles.
The location of your hip pain can often say a lot about the cause of your discomfort. For instance, if your butt, upper thigh, or outside of your hip is causing you trouble, then you’ve probably got issues with the ligaments, tendons, or muscles surrounding the hip joint. On the other hand, problems with the actual joint itself usually ends up causing pain around the inside of the groin or hip area. In some cases, hip pain can even be caused by diseases or conditions in other parts of your body – a situation known as “referred pain”.
Whenever you use the hip joint – whether you’re walking, standing, or going for a run – a cushion of natural cartilage helps to reduce friction as the bone moves in its socket. Unfortunately, although the hip joint is designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear, as well as repetitive motion – it’s not indestructible. As the largest joint in the body, the hip is great at providing fluid motion, but with age and use, cartilage can easily wear down and become damaged. On top of that, tendons and muscles around the hip can be over-used.
We’re going to take a look at some of the most common causes of hip pain – so you know what issues you’re going to need to address to get back on your feet and dancing in no time!
Standing on One Leg (Don’t be a Flamingo)
Although most people don’t actually stand with their entire weight on one leg, and their other foot up the air, standing with the majority of your weight towards one side of the body is pretty common. The chances are you’ve seen plenty of people having conversations with clients, customers, and friends, while sporting the “One-legged butt prop” pose.
Known as “hanging on one hip”, this form of standing involves placing all of your body weight onto one leg, which causes the hip and pelvis to be in “adduction” position – wreaking serious havoc on your body. To put this into perspective, imagine when you were a younger prankster. When your friend was standing tall with their knees locked, you could sometimes knock the back of their knees and cause them to buckle. This was because your friend wasn’t using any active muscle control at the knee joint.
The same thing happens when you’re hanging on your hip. Rather than using your muscles as you should be, you’re relying on the hip joint, ligaments, and bones to support your entire body weight. The problem with this is that you can end up causing serious damage to the joint and the surrounding soft tissues. In fact, “the Trendelenburg gait” – as it’s called in professional circles, causes everything from muscle strains, to nerve impingement, lower back pain, gluteus medius tendinopathy, and hip joint dysfunction.
Because active hip control is missing in this position, the pelvic floor and glutes become inhibited, which places greater pressure on the lumbar spine and medial knee. This compression can lead to serious problems of nerve impingement, and even increase your chances of suffering from arthritis. At the same time, balancing on one hip places additional stress on the IT band, which compresses the tendon – leading to gluteus medius tendinopathy. This condition can interfere with normal daily tasks and sleep patterns.
So how can you fight back against the problem of flamingo posture? One of the easiest ways is to be more aware of your posture throughout the day. Most people have no idea that they’re even standing with all their weight on one hip until someone else draws attention to it. Most of the time, if you want to banish the habit – you need to pay constant attention to how you’re holding yourself.
It might look elegant and professional to some – but sitting with your legs crossed one over the other simply isn’t a good position for your pelvis. The top leg places additional pressure on the lower leg, while the hips and pelvis are rotated and strained. Over all, you’re placing additional strain around your bottom-area, and you also must hunch the lower back slightly – leading to additional posture problems.
While sitting cross-legged won’t always be the definite cause of your hip pain, it can definitely make the problem a lot worse. Some experts agree that too much sitting in this position can lead to a range of problems, including higher blood pressure, and nerve pain. Some people also believe that it can contribute to the development of varicose and spider veins – but the medical community is still split over whether or not this is true. While it’s obvious that sitting with one leg on top of the other can restrict blood flow, we can’t be sure whether this causes compromised vessels in the leg to rupture.
Regardless of whether or not sitting with your legs crossed could be dangerous for vein and artery function, it’s worth noting that it’s particularly bad for your hips. It takes your entire body off balance and forces your hips to work extra hard when they’re supposed to be at rest. This extra pressure can lead to tension and strain around the hip and gluteus muscles that builds up over time.
The best way to keep your hips healthy is to maintain good posture regardless of whether you’re sitting or standing. Over the years, good posture has been shown to be ideal at preventing back problems and minimising your risk of heart disease. It can also help with lung function. What’s more, whether you’re sitting cross-legged or not, you should be getting up and out of your chair as frequently as possible to avoid the negative effects of sedentary living.
Too Much Time Sitting
It sounds like we’re against sitting – but trust us, science consistently proves that resting on your backside for too many hours each day is bad for your health. In fact, some experts believe that sitting could actually be the new smoking. After all, it presents more dangers than your standard dose of nicotine, kills more people than HIV, and is riskier than jumping off a building with a parachute.
In fact, even if you’re the kind of person who gets at least an hour of exercise into each day, the burst of activity you receive might not be enough to counteract the nine or ten hours you spend relaxing in your office chair or reclining in front of the television. When you’re sitting, you’re actively causing damage to your posture, and your muscles which can contribute to more than just hip pain – but back pain and neck strain too!
After all, when we’re sitting at a computer, it’s common to hold our head and neck forward. This posture can lead to strains in the cervical vertebrae – along with long-standing imbalances that can increase pain in your hips and back over time. Sitting also places additional gravitational pressure on the spine – and experts estimate that 40% of people with back pain spend long hours at a computer each day.
When it comes to the pain in your hips, the muscle degeneration that can occur from too much sitting might be one of the biggest threats modern people must face. After all, when you stand you force your body to tense abdominal muscles – which go unused when you sit, leading to weak abdominals. In the same vein, your hips can suffer from prolonged sitting, becoming tighter and losing their range of motion because they aren’t being properly extended.
This decrease in mobility and hip strength not only leads to immediate pain and discomfort – but can also present a serious problem in your future too. After all, in the elderly, decreased hip mobility is one of the leading causes of dangerous falls.
Losing your bum muscles
Besides watching your posture when you’re standing, and avoiding too much time sitting, building strength and enhancing flexibility are two ways that you can minimise hip pain. Working to strengthen the muscles in your bum helps to support the joints in your hips, and places less stress on the skeletal structure overall. This means that the stronger and more gravity-defying your backside is – the more comfortable you’ll be.
On top of that, increased flexibility caused by working out is one of the best ways to reduce hip pain. When you lose flexibility, an excessive amount of stress can be placed on the hip joint. After all, you can’t move with the same fluidity as you once could – so simple movements become more painful. Following are just a few simple exercises that you can do at anytime, anywhere to strengthen your butt and the other muscles that support your hip structure:
- Lie back and face the ceiling with your feet flat against the floor and your knees bent. Squeeze your gluteal muscles by tightening the muscles in the cheeks of your buttocks. Hold your position for at least five seconds, then release.
- Still lying on your back, with your feet pressed flat to the floor and your knees bent, tighten the muscles around your buttocks and lift your hips away from the ground. Hold your lower body in the air for at least five seconds before slowly lowering your butt back to the ground. Make sure that you breathe normally during the exercise, and do as many repetitions as you can handle before you run out of energy.
- Lie on your back with your feet flat against the floor for a final time, and tighten your buttocks the same way you did in the first exercise. Just like with the second exercise, lift your hips away from the ground and tighten your abdominal muscles, lifting one foot a couple of inches from the ground at the same time. Hold the position for a few seconds, then put your foot down and lift the other one instead. You should work up to doing around twenty to thirty steps at a time.
Forgetting to release with massage
Just like problems with many different muscle groups, massage therapy can be very beneficial in controlling acute or chronic pain in the hip – and freeing up limited motion. Massage helps to boost the recovery process after injury, and strengthen the muscle tissue which can prevent repetitive injuries in the future. On top of that, massage can be an excellent solution for treating muscle stiffness, spasms, and excess tension.
However, massage really does work best when it’s something that’s done on a regular basis. In other words, you can’t expect to ignore the stretching, moving, and self-massage techniques that your hips need on a daily level, then assume that all the pain can be massaged away in a single session. In between periods of deep, professional massage remember to stretch your hips regularly and identify pain points with regular self-massage. To do this simply:
- Lie down in a supine position with your back straight and locate the painful knots around the hip joint.
- Use one finger to press down on all the surrounding areas of the hip – looking for signs of sensitivity.
- Alternatively you can find a solid ball (eg lacrosse, hockey, cricket) and lean up against a wall pressing your hit into the ball to find the tender spots…when you find them…stay there or do small movements until the area starts to relieve. If people look at your funny, let them. If they knew how good it felt, they would do it too.
- Once you have identified the pain points, gently massage these areas with small amounts of pressure with your fingertips. Avoid being too aggressive, and always start with gentle pressure.
- Slowly increase your massage frequency and duration.