How to help sore hips?
April 2, 2016 8:32 AM   Subscribe

For a few years I've been experiencing soreness in my hips, particularly in the muscles around the upper portion of the hip bone. My work involves long periods of sitting at a desk. I tend to cross my legs unconsciously; not sure if that is contributing. I first noticed this probably when I was about 38; I'm now 40. It seems to be getting gradually worse.

If I sit down for an hour or so I usually feel stiff when I get up - the stiffness dissipates after a few minutes of movement. If I poke at the muscles around the top of my hip bone they are very sensitive and painful.

I've done a lot of googling for exercises/yoga poses for sore hips, psoas, etc. - most of these don't seem to be hitting the target area. (Having looked at an anatomical drawing of the hip muscles I'm not sure the psoas are the problem).

Mefites, have you had this issue? What helps?
posted by bunderful to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

To quote that site. "If you have bursitis, the affected joint may:

Feel achy or stiff
Hurt more when you move it or press on it
Look swollen and red"

What has helped me was a tilted seat pad that tipped me forward in the seat & took some of the pressure off my hips as well as doing various exercises I found on YouTube & NSAIDs
posted by wwax at 8:46 AM on April 2, 2016

Are you able to rig a setup so that you could stand for part of the day? That's the only thing that fixed my sitting-related pain issues. What I've read seems to indicate that being in any one position, either sitting or standing, for too long, can cause issues, so I try to switch it up a few times a day to avoid fatigue and stiffness or pain.
posted by decathecting at 8:47 AM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am dealing with a flare up of my own trochanteric bursitis and it feels exactly like your description. IT band stretches help me a lot.
posted by KathrynT at 9:00 AM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

How tall are you? I realize that's a pretty personal question, but you may be unconsciously crossing your legs because they're not long enough to reach the floor. At barely 5 feet tall, I've been there. And the way your legs bend when you cross them does not do your hips any favors, for sure.

Fortunately, there's an easy answer: footrests. If you can put your feet up when you're in your office chair, it will take a lot of pressure off your hips. Plus you tend to lean back more, so better posture too!
posted by DrGail at 9:00 AM on April 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is exactly the thing a physio should be able to help with - and with minimal intervention. I am not a PT but my best guess though is that the internal rotation (crossing legs) matched with weakness at the hip (prolonged sitting often encourages weak piriformis and medial glutes) is putting your hips at a less than optimal angle causing undue stress in your lower back.

These chronic things may result in more acute issues that may need to be treated first.

Standing up regularly, watching your posture and getting some hip and abdominal strength work may help substantially. If there are other comorbid issues this may not be sufficient and you will be glad you sought advice from your practioner.
posted by mce at 9:02 AM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Google isn't a great substitute for a real yoga class. Get to one, or a few, and ask the teacher to focus on hips. Yoga will give you a pretty good start on things.
posted by Dashy at 9:36 AM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hate to be all "yoga and martial arts saved my life" but...I've had a dislocated hip and a few years ago I was doing the old-lady wobble due to my hip, especially getting up and at night. I don't think it was just hip opener poses that helped so was also building the core and leg strength around it. I know it's a pain to hear but I can't say enough good about it. I haven't thought about my hips in months except in a class.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:49 AM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm with Dashy and warriorqueen: you need to do yoga or similar. I've been sitting at work longer than you've been alive, and tai chi has saved my body from seizing up. Before doing tai chi regularly I had arthritis pain, a bad back, and several other physical problems; they've all gone now and my body works pretty well. Many thanks to my teacher, Dale Strawhacker! Be sure to try more than one activity and several different instructors to find the one that suits you best, but do it!
posted by anadem at 9:59 AM on April 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I saw a physical therapist for this (got the referral from my orthopedist.) She prescribed exercises to build strength in certain surrounding muscles (stuff I would not have guessed, honestly.) They helped immediately - there is an obvious difference during times when I'm doing the exercises and when I slack off.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:13 AM on April 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

Are you overweight or do you have weak back / stomach muscles? This is exactly how I felt when pregnant. I would recommend a physiotherapist too - they target supporting structures that aren't doing their job properly to keep everything in alignment.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:23 AM on April 2, 2016

I had a hip injury a while back, and a lot of exercises dedicated to strengthening the small muscles around the hip were needed as part of my recovery. I don't think yoga will necessarily do this for you (although it might), a PT can, or if you google for PT exercises after hip surgery and you will find some suggestions. This is seconding what fingersandtoes said above, it's not just stretching but strengthening the right places. If you have decent insurance I would try to see a professional if it doesn't get any better.
posted by ch1x0r at 11:37 AM on April 2, 2016

When I had a similar problem, a softer mattress on my bed fixed it quickly and permanently. This may or may not be relevant to you, but if you're a side sleeper, consider it.
posted by metasarah at 11:59 AM on April 2, 2016

Sitting a lot is really bad for your body. Your body is essentially folded at the hip. so the front muscles (from your abdomen through your thighs) tighten up because they aren't being used hardly at all, while your lower back, butt and ham muscles are being stretched constantly around the outside of the fold, which weakens them. If you have any kind of pot belly, what is happening is that the tight front muscles, which are attached to the top of your hip, pull on the top of your pelvis, making you jut your gut because your back and butt muscles aren't strong enough to pull back and keep your pelvis vertical. Anterior Pelvic Tilt is the science term for what I'm talking about.

I use pushups, glute bridges (with leg raises), planks (don't forget side and back!), hollow body holds and supermans to counteract all of this. I go for 30sec holds on everything except supermans, which are hard for me so I just hold for as long as I can.

Standard "see a doctor" disclaimer.
posted by rhizome at 12:13 PM on April 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles and stretch your IT band and other tight areas. Pilates can complement and support this work and help you understand how the muscles work together as a system, as well as strengthen your core. If you prefer yoga to Pilates, that's good too.

In my experience, the 40s were the age where all the bad posture and body mechanics from the earlier decades of my life came to claim their dues. Learn to take better care of your body now and it'll save you bigger problems later.
posted by matildaben at 1:25 PM on April 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Having had chronic unremitting bilateral trochanteric bursitis for some years now -- which came and went before it turned into a permanent thing -- I would (and I apologise if I'm scaring you!) take this super-seriously and make radical changes in sitting, exercise, see a physio, get my doctor aggressively on board, etc. (I did not personally have any luck with cortisone injections, but many people do.)

I don't sit on chairs -- I mean, I can sit with acceptable discomfort for as long as it takes to eat a meal, but I don't sit for comfort -- I sit on the floor with pillows under my thighs and something supporting my back, on a recline. Those "gravity chairs" you see in everybody's yards nowadays are terrific, too.

Heating pads can be helpful if you're a side sleeper (or just for daytime pain relief). Blistering hot shallow baths are nice, too.

I had a physician who was dismissive of the whole thing before I switched to the one who was happy to shoot me up with cortisone ASAP; I feel like I would be less disabled by it if it hadn't gotten to the point it did from the lousy doctor. Don't let anybody brush you off. Also, if you need serious pain meds to get exercise done -- get the serious pain meds. (I also have elbow problems and remember being really happy with my GP for prescribing extra so I could paddle a boat -- and the more paddling I did, the better my elbows got, and the fewer pills I took overall. But the first GP just didn't listen to a damn thing, and I never would have been medicated enough to paddle. Don't rely on internet advice -- ironic, sorry! -- go get a doctor to take you seriously, ASAP.)
posted by kmennie at 3:02 PM on April 2, 2016

N-thing bursitis. That thing you're poking that's tender is an inflamed sack of fluid. Get a steroid shot or three, or get it removed (it's day surgery in Australia - incision, whip it out, close it up, go home).
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:13 PM on April 3, 2016

Being in a similar situation myself and looking at your question, I'm going to actually suggest that your first instinct was right and it is a tight iliopsoas. One way to see is to check your posture when you stand: if your lower back is dramatically curved inward, your psoas is most likely the culprit. A chiropractor diagnosed me, and gave me stretches to do to release it internally, so I recommend an appointment with one ASAP.

One other thought is tight hamstrings; if you're sitting all day, they'll tighten right up and need stretching to keep them (and you) limber.

I'm mainly chiming in because yoga can actually exacerbate hip and back pain if you have a tight psoas, so proceed with caution.
posted by inky_the_pinky at 2:39 PM on April 4, 2016

If it's bursitis, you might try chaga mushroom tea. I found that a mug of tea on a daily basis has fully resolved my (mild) bursitis. It's very inoffensive tasting, but I also put some ginger in, because I like it.
posted by spindrifter at 3:40 PM on April 11, 2016

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