Tight Hips? These Hip Mobility Exercises Can Help, According to Physical Therapists

Hip stiffness can have an impact on your entire body — these hip mobility exercises from Hinge Health physical therapists can help improve flexibility.

Published Date: Oct 16, 2023
group-of-women-stretching-together

Tight Hips? These Hip Mobility Exercises Can Help, According to Physical Therapists

Hip stiffness can have an impact on your entire body — these hip mobility exercises from Hinge Health physical therapists can help improve flexibility.

Published Date: Oct 16, 2023
group-of-women-stretching-together

Tight Hips? These Hip Mobility Exercises Can Help, According to Physical Therapists

Hip stiffness can have an impact on your entire body — these hip mobility exercises from Hinge Health physical therapists can help improve flexibility.

Published Date: Oct 16, 2023
group-of-women-stretching-together

Tight Hips? These Hip Mobility Exercises Can Help, According to Physical Therapists

Hip stiffness can have an impact on your entire body — these hip mobility exercises from Hinge Health physical therapists can help improve flexibility.

Published Date: Oct 16, 2023
group-of-women-stretching-together
Table of Contents

A popular song from the 2000s, put it best: The hips don’t lie. And strong, flexible hips have the ability to have a positive ripple effect on the rest of your body. The opposite, however, is also true. When your hips are tight or stiff, it can make it harder for you to do the things you enjoy. 

“Your hips are extremely important for movement,” says Samantha Charlotin, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health. “We spend a lot of time in weight-bearing positions, like standing or even sitting, that directly affects the hips.” When you stand, the muscles that surround your hips have to lengthen in order to help you stay upright and stable. 

Simply put, tight hips can impact every type of movement, from walking to sitting to running to moving side to side. But that’s not all: “Your hip muscles contribute to bladder control, balance, and even sexual function,” says Dr. Charlotin.

Read on to learn what you can do to improve your hip mobility, including exercises from our Hinge Health physical therapists. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Samantha Charlotin, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Charlotin is a Hinge Health physical therapist and specializes in the treatment of orthopedic and pelvic health concerns.
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.

What Is Hip Mobility?

Hip mobility is all about how easily you can move around without experiencing hip pain, stiffness, or tightness. “Your hip joint is like a ball and socket, and it’s more weight bearing than other joints, like your shoulders,” says Dr. Charlotin. 

In fact, the large bones that make up your hip joint, like your femur, or thighbone, and your pelvis, anchor several big muscles. These include your hip flexors and glutes, as well as others that move down your thigh to your knee, like your abductors, adductors, quadriceps, and hamstrings. “If any of these muscles are tight, it can cause limited hip mobility,” explains Dr. Charlotin.

What Causes Limited Hip Mobility?

Here are some of the most common reasons you may experience limited hip mobility:

  • Sitting for too long. A sedentary lifestyle can tighten your hip flexors. This causes your muscles to lose the elasticity they need for full range of motion, says Dr. Charlotin.

  • Arthritis. There are several different types of arthritis that can contribute to hip pain, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis in the hips can cause changes to the shock-absorbing cartilage between bones and contribute to hip muscle tightness. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack the tissue lining the joints, including the hip joints.

  • Muscle imbalances. If certain muscles, like your core or glutes are weak, it can force your hip flexors to work harder. This can lead to strain in the hip muscles, which, in turn, can cause tightness. 

  • Tendinitis. If you do more activity than your body is ready to handle — for example, you quickly increase your running or biking mileage or pace without proper training — it can strain your hip muscles and ligaments, causing conditions such as hip tendinitis. This can trigger tightness that impacts hip mobility.

  • Bursitis. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that sit between the bones, muscles, and tendons all across the body. They act like cushions and help your joints move smoothly. If you push your body past its sweet spot, however, they can become inflamed. If this inflammation occurs in the hip joints, you may develop hip bursitis that can lead to tightness and pain.

Why Is Hip Mobility Important?

By now you know that you can’t underestimate the importance of your hips. The more mobile your hips are, the better your range of motion will be. “If you are stiff in your hips, it can limit your mobility and affect your movement patterns,” says Dr. Charlotin. This will make it harder not only to do athletic activities such as running, squatting, or jumping, but it can also make everyday activities, such as walking while tackling errands or bending to pick something up, more difficult. 

Hip stiffness can also affect your lower back leading to low back pain. “If your hip muscles are tight, your spine picks up the slack, which can cause strain and stiffness over time,” says Dr. Charlotin.

If you feel like your hip mobility is limited, it’s a good idea to see a physical therapist. They can do assessments to check your hip flexibility, says Dr. Charlotin. They may have you do specific exercises to gauge hip tightness, like:

  • Half kneeling pose, to assess hip flexor muscle length

  • Straight leg raise, to check hamstring and glute muscles

  • Knee to chest, to see how tight the hip abductor muscles are

  • Leg cross, to check the external rotation of the hip

Once a physical therapist gets a better sense of your hip strength and flexibility, they can show you how to improve hip mobility with specific strengthening and stretching exercises. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.

Improving Hip Mobility: A Hinge Health Perspective

To increase hip mobility, you need to stretch frequently and stay active. 

Samantha Charlotin, PT, DPT
Consistent stretching helps lengthen your muscles, and the more you lengthen your muscles, the more you allow them to reach their full potential.

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In fact, a 2021 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that frequent stretching of hip flexor muscles improved athletic performance. It also helped reduce low back pain in the study participants.

In addition to stretches, hip mobility exercises, like you’ll see in the next section, are also important. A study inthe Journal of Osteoporosis found that women with hip pain who took part in a three-month hip exercise program not only saw their discomfort decrease, but they also reported significant increase in hip mobility.

But hip mobility stretches and exercises aren’t the only things you need to focus on to relax your hips. Regular, full-body exercise is important. “If your hip stiffness is so painful that it’s hard to move, you might try starting with activities like swimming, biking, or rowing,” says Dr. Charlotin. Since these activities are lower impact, they can take the pressure off the hips to start. But higher-impact activities are often the goal for many people. And they are extremely important for long-term health. Activities like walking, hiking, jogging, and racquet sports are some of the healthiest activities people can participate in. But if you have hip pain and tightness, you may have to ease into these activities, gradually building your resilience to them.

After any workout, Dr. Charlotin recommends foam rolling, which involves using a large cylinder made of solid foam to massage your hip muscles. “Foam rolling also helps to lengthen your muscles, and it increases blood flow to the area,” she explains. If you’re experiencing post-exercise stiffness, follow your workout with warm, moist heat to the area (like a hot water bottle, or a hot bath or shower).

Exercises to Improve Hip Mobility

Get 100+ similar exercises for free

  • Hamstring Stretch
  • Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Butterfly Stretch
  • Squats
  • Straight Leg Raise
  • Side Lying Hip Adduction

These exercises are recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists to improve strength and flexibility in your hip muscles and surrounding muscle groups. They specifically target the muscles and movements that are involved in proper hip mobility, which has the added benefit of helping to prevent strain on other areas, like your back, core, or spine. 

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: Set Sitting Limits

Ever find yourself parked at your desk at work or on the couch in front of the TV and realize you haven’t stood up for…hours? It happens. But the best thing you can do for your hips is get in the habit of breaking up periods of sitting with standing or walking. “You don’t want to sit for more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time,” advises Dr. Charlotin. “If you’re driving for a while, or stuck in front of your computer, get up to stretch every half hour.” This can help counteract the stiffness that can develop in your hips, which can limit hip mobility over time. 

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. Konrad, A., Močnik, R., Titze, S., Nakamura, M., & Tilp, M. (2021). The Influence of Stretching the Hip Flexor Muscles on Performance Parameters. A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(4), 1936. doi:10.3390/ijerph18041936

  2. Uusi-Rasi, K., Patil, R., Karinkanta, S., Tokola, K., Kannus, P., & Sievänen, H. (2017). Exercise Training in Treatment and Rehabilitation of Hip Osteoarthritis: A 12-Week Pilot Trial. Journal of Osteoporosis, 2017, 1–7. do:10.1155/2017/3905492

  3. McBeth, J. M., Earl-Boehm, J. E., Cobb, S. C., & Huddleston, W. E. (2012). Hip Muscle Activity During 3 Side-Lying Hip-Strengthening Exercises in Distance Runners. Journal of Athletic Training, 47(1), 15–23. do:10.4085/1062-6050-47.1.15