Part 1: Hip Mobility

Low back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. There are several different factors that can contribute to back pain. One of the most commonly heard ways to prevent back pain is to stay active. Remaining active keeps your muscles strong and your joints mobile, which helps reduce the stress on your low back. A major contributor to back pain and the factor we will talk about today, is your HIPS!

Often times reduced mobility or strength at the hips can cause the body to ask more of the lower back. If your body is lacking motion or strength at the hip it will go to the joint above or below for help. The joint above your hip happens to be the lower back! For example, decreased extension in the hip (bringing the leg back) can cause you to extend more at the lower back putting more compression through your vertebrae. A decreased ability to contract, or weakness in the glutes (muscles of your backside), can cause you to excessively contract your low back musculature. Making sure you have strong and mobile hips can significantly reduce your chances of back pain.

How do we make sure our hips stay healthy?

We need to challenge each direction the hip offers regularly in order keep them healthy. Most people are sitting for extended periods of time and rarely challenging each direction of the hip routinely. So in this article we’re going to give some basic tips/exercises on how to keep your hips mobile and healthy.

Mobility of the Hip Joint:

Your hip has THREE degrees of freedom. This means the ball and socket joint of the hip can move forward and back, side to side and it can rotate.

If any of those motions are lacking your brain and your body will try to make up for it elsewhere. It can do this by asking your back, more specifically your spine to move more than it should. This increased demand of movement on your spine can put your back in compromising positions, leading to pain.

It is important to regularly challenge these degrees of freedom of the hip in order to maintain a healthy mobile joint. Check out the videos below for some basic hip mobility exercises you can start doing.  Remember when doing these exercises, we want to try and feel a tightening sensation in or around the hip. We want to try and keep your spine neutral and we want the movement to come from your hip.

Hip M’s: This exercise is designed to challenge the internal rotation of the hip. Evidence continues to build suggesting lack of rotation of the hip can be a major cause of low back pain.

Seated Hip ER: Designed to work on external rotation and posterior stretching of the hip. Notice how the back stays neutral (no arch, no bend) as your upper body hinges forward.

Half Kneeling stretch and a spin modification: This stretch is intended to stretch the front of your hip and can extend down into the quad. You can also spin the back leg to change where you feel the stretch in your hip.

Child’s pose: This exercises is intended to get the hip back into the socket in a posterior direction. You can bias this exercise from one side to the other as shown in the video to increase the intensity. If you are unable to get in this position because of the knees, try a knee hug while lying on your back.

These are four basic hip exercises to begin working on the mobility in each direction and may get your hips moving better. These are suggestions on mobility exercises that you can start doing to help reduce your chances of back pain, but are not a substitution for a proper evaluation by your clinician.

Next week we’ll talk about how you can strengthen your hips in order to help fend off back pain. We’ll also give you some basic hip strengthening exercises to start with!

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