Hip Mobility and Stability

The hip joint is the largest weight-bearing joint in our bodies, and it serves an important role in both stability and mobility. It is a ball and socket joint that is made up of the femur (thigh bone), ilium (hip bone), pubis (pelvis) and acetabulum (hip socket).

The shape of the hip joint allows stability to be maintained, while allowing for a wide range of motion that assists us in walking, running, jumping and climbing. Many important muscles attach around the hip joint to assist in controlling movement and transferring load from our lower limb to our pelvis and spine.

Maintaining Hip Mobility

Many issues can arise if we lose mobility in our hip. One common example is losing hip extension (often due to tight hip flexors at the front, or weak glutes at the back). When we walk or run, our body will start to compensate and over extend through our lumbar spine to get our leg back into the right position. This places excessive load on our low back and pain and stiffness may then develop in this area. Similar overload issues can happen if we lose mobility in other directions of our hip as well. Stretching and mobility exercises are a great way to maintain the movement through the hip joint. Ensure you focus on keeping your low back/trunk stable and don’t let the hip movements overflow into other areas.

Walking Lunges                                                                 

Start with feet together. Take a step forward, then bend both knees to lower your body towards the floor. Keep trunk upright. Push back up with your legs to the start position, then step through with the opposite leg and repeat.  

Hip Flexor Stretch

Start in a kneeling position. Tuck your tailbone underneath to create a stretch through the front of the hip that is kneeling on the floor. Then keeping your back straight, glide forward until the stretch increases. Hold for 30 seconds.  

Leg Swings

Standing tall, gently swing you leg backwards and forwards, ensuring you keep your back still so the movement is coming only from the hip. Repeat 10 in each direction, then do the same in a side to side direction.   

Maintaining Hip Stability

The load that comes up from the ground when we walk, run and jump needs to be transferred through the hip joint and shared throughout the pelvis and spine. If our hip stability is lacking, it can create shearing forces through the pelvis and excessively load many structures. A common example of this is “hip bursitis”/gluteal tendinopathy. Poor stability on the outside of the pelvis/hip when standing on one leg (e.g. walking, going up stairs) causes the thigh bone to drop inwards and the hip to deviate out to the side. This stresses the tendons that attach to the outside side of the hip bone and create compression of the bursa.

Bridging  

Start lying on your back with feet hip width apart. Squeeze the muscles in your bottom, then lift your hips up towards the ceiling. Ensure you don’t overextend through the low back. Lower back down to the floor and repeat.

Crab Walk

Place a mini-band around the thighs. Sink into a small squat position and take a small step side ways, keeping your feet pointing straight ahead.  Slowly bring the other leg across, keeping tension on the band at all times.  Repeat.

Step Up

Place foot on top of the step, pushing through your heel, step up on to the step. Bring the other knee up towards your chest. Then slowly slower that leg onto the floor so the same leg is  in contact with the step the whole time. Repeat .

A blog by Nikki Rathbone

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