Physical Therapy for Hip Pain: How It Works, What to Expect, and Recommended Exercises

Learn how to treat and overcome hip pain, and get tips to prevent pain flares from occurring in the future.

Published Date: Dec 6, 2023

Physical Therapy for Hip Pain: How It Works, What to Expect, and Recommended Exercises

Learn how to treat and overcome hip pain, and get tips to prevent pain flares from occurring in the future.

Published Date: Dec 6, 2023

Physical Therapy for Hip Pain: How It Works, What to Expect, and Recommended Exercises

Learn how to treat and overcome hip pain, and get tips to prevent pain flares from occurring in the future.

Published Date: Dec 6, 2023

Physical Therapy for Hip Pain: How It Works, What to Expect, and Recommended Exercises

Learn how to treat and overcome hip pain, and get tips to prevent pain flares from occurring in the future.

Published Date: Dec 6, 2023
Table of Contents

Your hip is one of the most important and powerful joints in your body. It consists of a ball-and-socket joint that enables every step you take and helps keep your torso and lower body stable and balanced. 

Because your hips are such a crucial part of your daily activities, it’s common to experience aches and stiffness. After all, they get a lot of important use. In fact, research shows that more than 14% of adults report significant hip pain on most days of the week. 

“A lot of the hip issues I see are arthritis — that’s a big one — as well as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and labral tears, which is an injury to the soft tissue around your hip joint,” says Hinge Health physical therapist Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT.

Although ongoing hip pain can interfere with your daily activities and overall quality of life, it doesn't have to. Physical therapy can make a big difference in how you feel. It’s a proven non-invasive, drug-free approach to effectively manage, reduce, and, in some cases, prevent various types of hip pain. 

Physical therapy is “treatment provided by a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant that helps people improve their movement and physical function, manage pain and other chronic conditions, and recover from and prevent injury and chronic disease,” according to the American Physical Therapy Association. Hinge Health offers access to physical therapy and much more. It’s a digital musculoskeletal clinic that helps people take control of their pain and other symptoms by providing physical therapy, exercise therapy, education, and health coaching, among other offerings. 

Here, we’ll explain how physical therapy is used to treat hip pain and how Hinge Health can offer access to physical therapy and more. (To see if you qualify for the Hinge Health program, confirm coverage at no cost to you through your employer here.)

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Our Hinge Health Experts

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.
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.

Hip Pain, Explained

Hip pain can be caused by issues with the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding your hip joint, or due to inflammation in the joint itself that creates stiffness and swelling. The discomfort could be acute (lasting less than 12 weeks) or chronic (lasting longer than 12 weeks). When musculoskeletal pain is chronic, it’s usually related to more than just tissue damage or injury. Chronic pain is often due to a variety of factors, including environment, lifestyle, genetics, and mental health. 

“Often, hip pain may feel worse in the morning and at night — especially if you sleep on your side. Hip pain could also come and go, or be persistent,” says Dr. Peterson. “Whatever the reason, movement is often helpful for increasing lower body and back strength to support your hip joints and reduce pain flare ups.” 

Research shows that regular exercise is effective for reducing joint stiffness and improving strength and mobility, especially if you have a hip condition such as osteoarthritis. 

How Can Physical Therapy Help My Hips?

Dr. Peterson notes that a lot of times, people go in the opposite direction: Rather than keeping up their usual exercise routine and daily activities, they think they should stop moving altogether to give their body a break. 

“You may need to modify your exercise, but moving through a bit of pain is one of the best things you can do for managing your symptoms and breaking the pain cycle,” he says. That’s where physical therapy comes in.  

Hip Symptoms and Physical Therapy

Working with a physical therapist is one of the first nonsurgical treatments providers recommend for many cases of hip pain. Targeted exercises can help relieve pain while strengthening and stretching weakened or strained muscles.

Physical therapy can help you manage a lot of different hip pain symptoms, including: 

  • Pain in and around the hip joint

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling

  • Feeling like your hips or legs may give out

  • Lack of mobility in your hips or legs 

  • Snapping or clicking sounds in the hip (called crepitus) 

Hip Conditions and Physical Therapy

Hip pain can be caused by a number of different conditions that your physical therapist should be able to work with you to improve. These include: 

Whether your hip discomfort is primarily due to one of these conditions or something else, physical therapy can offer a lot of benefits for hip pain and function. 

Goals of Physical Therapy for Hip Pain

  • Relieving pain. A primary goal of physical therapy for hip pain is to reduce aches, stiffness, and discomfort. Physical therapists provide guidance on how to do exercises that are tailored for your exact needs and goals. Research shows that people with hip pain who engage in physical therapy as a first-line treatment option report improved symptoms and better function. 

  • Improving mobility. It’s hard to want to move if you hurt, but physical therapy can help you safely push through a bit of that pain and get you back to doing the things you love — or even just being able to accomplish the daily stuff you need to do with more ease. 

  • Having fewer arthritis symptoms. A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies on arthritis-related hip pain found that six to nine months of physical therapy significantly improved symptoms and function. 

  • Increasing range of motion. Hip pain can restrict your range of motion, leading to stiffness and limited mobility. Physical therapy focuses on restoring range of motion with targeted exercises and stretches. This helps loosen tight muscles, improve flexibility, and promote better joint movement.

  • Strengthening and stabilizing. Muscles in your hips, back, and legs that have lost strength can contribute to hip pain and instability. Physical therapists prescribe specific strengthening exercises to target the muscles that support your hips. These exercises improve muscle strength, endurance, and stability. This reduces strain on your hip joints and improves overall function.

  • Providing education and self-management techniques. Physical therapists play a vital role in educating patients about their symptoms and conditions, providing self-management strategies and lifestyle changes, and empowering them to take an active role in their recovery. Physical therapists can help you make lifestyle modifications as needed and teach you how you can manage pain on your own (especially with movement and exercise) so you can keep making progress toward your goals. 

  • Sharing prevention tips. Physical therapy isn’t just about managing current pain episodes. It’s also about equipping you with tools and knowledge to prevent future pain flares and maintain healthy hips and body. Physical therapists may provide guidance on ongoing exercises, self-care strategies, and lifestyle modifications to minimize the risk of reinjury and promote long-term hip health.

The goals and treatment approaches used in physical therapy will vary depending on your specific condition and needs. A thorough assessment by a qualified physical therapist will help determine the most appropriate treatment plan tailored to your unique situation.

Physical Therapy, Exercise Therapy for Hip Pain, and Hinge Health

Physical therapy means you are getting treatment from a licensed physical therapist or physical therapy assistant. At Hinge Health, our members can see their own licensed physical therapist who personalizes and oversees their care plan. Hinge Health physical therapists focus on what we call exercise therapy, or therapeutic exercises.

Exercise therapy means following a treatment plan of different types of exercises to help relieve pain, improve function and mobility, recover from injuries, and manage chronic conditions. Many people associate “exercise” only with getting fit or losing weight. We at Hinge Health love the phrase exercise therapy because it speaks to one of our main treatment philosophies: Movement is medicine.

Exercise therapy and physical therapy are not interchangeable. Our physical therapists prescribe exercise therapy to our members. Following your own personalized exercise therapy routine is one of the best ways to heal your hip pain and prevent it from recurring. 

Hip Pain Recovery with Hinge Health

If you’re experiencing hip pain that makes it hard to move freely, you can get relief with Hinge Health. A digital clinic for joint and muscle care, Hinge Health provides members with access to their own physical therapist, in addition to other program offerings (guided exercise therapy, personalized health coaching, education, and more). 

It can be very challenging to stay consistent in doing exercise therapy, but research shows that consistency is the best way to build a habit and maximize your results. Our physical therapists, health coaches, doctors, and other care team members all share a common goal of helping our members make exercise therapy a habit so they can get back to doing what they love.

Hinge Health physical therapists can give you an assessment and provide you with personalized recommendations to help you achieve your goals. Our physical therapists are trained to rule out any serious causes of your pain, modify your activities, empower you with tools to help you hurt less, and provide you with a personalized program to strengthen your body and help you recover.

Meeting with a Hinge Health Physical Therapist

Unlike many traditional physical therapy visits, you can meet with a Hinge Health physical therapist via video visit. That means, from the comfort of your own home, you can discuss your symptoms and goals with a physical therapist. They can conduct a movement assessment, observing how you move through different ranges of motion — and then create a personalized plan for you based on their findings. They can show you how to perform certain exercises and make sure you feel confident performing those movements on your own.

In addition to looking at your movement patterns and showing you how to do certain exercises, your video visit with a physical therapist provides you the opportunity to ask questions about your pain, function, and progress in the Hinge Health program. Your physical therapist can also make modifications to the exercises in your Hinge Health program to help you along the way to healing. 

Hinge Health's Proven Results and Effectiveness

Hinge Health members have access to a library of therapeutic exercises designed to help you overcome your hip pain. This involves a combination of strengthening and stretching exercises. Your physical therapist can then tailor those exercises even further to better suit your needs and help you achieve your specific goals. 

We’ve published clinical studies with over 10,000 Hinge Health members, in collaboration with researchers at Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco. These show that our members experience, on average, a 68% reduction in pain in their first 12 weeks alone. Of course, beating pain has other benefits, too. These members experienced a 58% decrease in anxiety and depression on average over that same period.

Importance of Health Coaching 

Another facet of the Hinge Health program that sets it apart: personalized health coaching. In addition to having tailored exercises and access to a physical therapist, many Hinge Health members work with a health coach. Their job: to be your partner and support you on your Hinge Health journey.

Your coach can share information and guidance on the exercises and education concepts in your program, help you stay motivated and accountable, celebrate your progress and support you in working through obstacles, and help you explore meaningful goals and ways to reach them. 

Exercise Therapy for Hip Pain Relief

Get 100+ similar exercises for free

  • Squats
  • Seated Marches
  • Clamshells
  • Bridge

These exercises for hip pain recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists help build strength, flexibility, and mobility. These act as a good starting point, but you can also work with a physical therapist for more personalized guidance. 

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.

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. Hip Pain. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hip-pain/basics/definition/sym-20050684

  2. Ahuja, V., et al. (2020). Chronic Hip Pain in Adults: Current Knowledge and Future Prospective. Journal of Anaesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 36, no. 4, p. 450. doi:10.4103/joacp.joacp_170_19

  3. Kemp, J. L., et al. (2020). Improving Function in People with Hip-Related Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Physiotherapist-Led Interventions for Hip-Related Pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 54, no. 23, pp. 1382–1394. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2019-101690

  4. Teirlinck, C. H., et al. (2023). Effect of Exercise Therapy in Patients with Hip Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Cumulative Meta-Analysis. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage Open, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 100338. doi:10.1016/j.ocarto.2023.100338

  5. Holden, M., et al. (2023). Moderators of the Effect of Therapeutic Exercise for Knee and Hip Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Individual Participant Data Meta-Analysis. The Lancet Rheumatology, vol. 5, no. 7, pp. e386–e400. doi:10.1016/s2665-9913(23)00122-4