Exercises to Relieve Pain From Hip Impingement and Support Your Hip Joints

Suffering from hip impingement pain? Learn how physical therapy can help relieve pain and improve hip mobility with hip impingement exercises.

Published Date: Mar 26, 2024
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Your hips work hard. They support much of your body weight and help you move you from one place to another all day long. If your hips hurt, the pain and discomfort can impact your day in a pretty big way, making it harder to get around and do the activities you enjoy.

A common cause of hip pain that can affect anyone is hip impingement. If hip impingement is contributing to your achy hip, physical therapy exercises can help with your symptoms and may prevent future problems. Read on to learn more about how to manage your pain, especially with movement and exercise therapy. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Keesha Vaughn, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Vaughn is a Hinge Health physical therapist and a board-certified orthopedic specialist.
Jonathan Lee, MD, MBA
Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Lee is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and an Associate Medical Director at Hinge Health.
Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

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What is Hip Impingement?

The hip is one of the largest joints in your body, and it’s a ball-and-socket joint. The ball part is the spherical top of your femur, the long thigh bone. The socket is a cup-like indentation on the lower portion of your pelvis called the acetabulum. The labrum, which is made up of cartilage, lines the rim of the acetabulum. “The labrum serves to stabilize the joint, acting as a little suction cup to help the ball stay in the socket,” says Keesha Vaughn, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health.

Hip impingement, technically called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), occurs “when you have a bony overgrowth in the hip,” says Dr. Vaughn. “It can be on the femur side or the pelvis side, or you could have a combination of both.” The overgrowth prevents the joint from gliding as smoothly as it usually does. “So as you do different activities, the labrum can get pinched and cause pain or discomfort,” says Dr. Vaughn.

It’s unclear why hip impingement occurs. Some people may be born with slight variations in the head of their femur, or the acetabulum that can create friction. It’s also possible that bony growths may develop due to repetitive activities like sports that require a lot of hip twisting or squatting. A bony overgrowth may be present all or most of your life, or it may develop later in life, possibly due to a change in activity or even an injury. Regardless, it doesn’t cause pain for everyone. 

If you do experience pain from hip impingement, it’s usually felt in the groin or the front of the thigh and occurs most often when sitting, climbing stairs, or bending down. “Often, standing and walking feel fine,” says Dr. Vaughn. “It’s when the hip is in a flexed position, like sitting, where you get the bones pinching on the labrum.” Sometimes, it feels like a tightness or dull ache, but other times, it can be sharp and shooting sensation depending on the activity you’re doing.

How Exercise Helps Hip Impingement

Many people assume that hip pain means they should take it easy and rest to give their hip time to heal. This is actually the opposite of what you want to do. Being too sedentary can actually do more harm than moving, even if you do have some discomfort with certain activities. 

Exercise won’t change the structure of your hip joint to correct the impingement, but by strengthening the muscles that surround your hips, you can create a solid foundation to support your hip joints. This is what helps to ease pain and discomfort while improving your hip mobility. 

Strengthening Exercises for Hip Impingement Pain Relief

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  • Bridge
  • Clamshells
  • Standing Hip Extension
  • Bird Dogs
  • Plank
  • Side Plank

These exercises recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists strengthen the muscles in your back, abdomen, hips, and buttocks. While they aren’t likely to provide immediate pain relief, they can ease symptoms over time and support overall hip health. “Having strength in and around your hips helps support your hip joints so you become more resilient to activities that tend to be aggravating to your hip impingement, like climbing stairs,” says Dr. Vaughn.

Stretches for Hip Impingement Pain Relief

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  • Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Glute Stretch
  • Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

In addition to strengthening exercises, these stretches recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists can ease hip impingement pain. You want to stretch only to the point where you feel mild tension. You should never feel pain when stretching. 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

PT Tip: Make Activity Modifications to Manage Your Symptoms

Activity is really beneficial for hip impingement, but modifying how you do certain activities (or how often and long you do them) can make a big difference in how you feel. For instance, if you enjoy cycling, avoid leaning over the handlebars, suggests Dr. Vaughn. A more upright position opens your hips up to reduce pinching. If you enjoy running, you could consider incorporating some walking or swimming into your routine to limit how often your hips go into a flexed position. Or, you could decrease the time or distance of your runs until your symptoms begin to improve, and gradually increase from there.   

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Zhou, J., Melugin, H.P., Hale, R.F., Leland, D.P., Bernard, C.D., Levy, B.A., & Krych, A.J. (2020). The Prevalence of Radiographic Findings of Structural Hip Deformities for Femoroacetabular Impingement in Patients with Hip Pain. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(3), 647-653. doi:10.1177/0363546519896355

  2. Terrell S.L., Olson G.E., & Lynch J. (2021) Therapeutic Exercise Approaches to Nonoperative and Postoperative Management of Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome. Journal of Athletic Training, 56(1), 31-45. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-0488.19

  3. Aoyama, M., Ohnishi, Y., Utsunomiya, H., Kanezaki, S., Takeuchi, H., Watanuki, M., Matsuda, D., & Uchida, S. (2019) A Prospective, Randomized, Controlled Trial Comparing Conservative Treatment with Trunk Stabilization Exercise to Standard Hip Muscle Exercise for Treating Femoroacetabular Impingement: A Pilot Study. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 29(4), 267-275. doi:10.1097/JSM.0000000000000516

  4. Mulcahey, M. K. & Thomas Byrd, J.W. (2020, August). Femoroacetabular Impingement. OrthoInfo — American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/femoroacetabular-impingement/