Best Physical Therapy Exercises for Hip Tightness and Pain

Danh NgoHip, groin, pelvic pain, Pain Relief Division

The adult human body is an amazing machine made up of 206 bones and over 600 muscles connected by tendons, tissue, and ligaments. But when one part of the machine isn’t working, it can prevent the other parts from working too.

If you are experiencing hip tightness, you know this all too well. Tight hips can cause lower back pain, hamstring stiffness, and limited range of motion. Luckily, there are a few therapeutic exercises to reduce hip tightness and get you back to your regular activity.

This article will share 8 physical therapy exercises to release tight hips and promote optimal hip mobility. Some of them are stretching exercises and others are strengthening exercises.

1. Hip Flexor Stretch

Overactive hip flexors can cause hip tightness. If you spend a lot of time sitting during the day, your hip flexors are probably tight and you should stretch them.

To stretch your hip flexors, place one knee on the ground and the other foot flat in front of you (creating a 90-degree angle with both legs). Squeeze your glutes, tighten your core and gently shift your body toward the front knee. You should feel a slight pull in the hip flexor but it shouldn’t be painful.

Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each side. Over time, you should notice less hip pain and tightness.

2. Figure-4 Stretch

The figure-4 stretch is for your piriformis which is a muscle located in the back of the hip near the glutes. To perform the figure-4 stretch start on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Cross one leg over the bent knee of the other leg.

Interlace your fingers behind your thigh (of the bent knee) and pull your thigh toward your chest. You should feel this stretch through the back of your hip. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each side.

3. Hip Bridges

Another way to reduce hip tightness is by strengthening other muscles, like the glutes and hamstrings. Hip bridges target the back of the legs and the glutes.

Start on your back with knees bent and feet flat. Then, squeeze your glutes (buttocks) and press your feet firmly into the floor as you lift your hips up. Your knees should be in line with your hips. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds.

Start with 10-15 repetitions of hip bridges. If you are more advanced you can try performing the hip bridges one leg at a time.

4. Straight Leg Raises

This exercise will feel easy but it’s an effective way to release tight hips. Start on the floor, on your back, with your feet straight out in front of you. 

Slowly raise one of your legs pointing your foot towards your face and squeezing your quad (front of the leg). You will feel a pull through the back of your leg. Raise and lower the leg 10-15 times per side and repeat 2-3 times.

5. Hip Squeeze

Another way to improve hip mobility and reduce pain is to strengthen and stretch your groin – the area between the upper thigh and abdomen. Try 2-3 sets of hip squeezes.

First, lie in a flat position on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Place a towel, pillow, or squishy ball between your knees. Squeeze your knees together putting pressure on the object between them. Hold for 5-10 seconds and release.

6. Monster Walk

You will need a resistance band for this exercise. Place the resistance band around your ankles. Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent and your core engaged.

Take a small step sideways creating tension in the resistance band. Then step with the other leg. Keep tension in the band as you step 10-15 times in one direction and then back in the other direction.

The monster walk is a good way to strengthen your hips and glutes while practicing your ability to move laterally. This is also a great exercise for runners that want to improve their strength and prevent injury. 

7. Plank

Your core muscles help to stabilize your body during all types of activities. They work with your hips when you are walking, running, or even sitting down. There are hundreds of core strength exercises but the plank is one of the simplest yet most effective ones.

Start by laying on the floor with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and your forearms parallel to each other. Keep your knees and forearms on the floor as you raise yourself up. Aim for a straight line from your knees to your hips to your head.

For a more advanced version of this move, raise yourself onto your toes and forearms while keeping your back flat and your buttocks in line with your back.

8. Hip Hikes

For this exercise, you will need access to a 6-8 inch stair or step stool. Standing sideways let your outside leg hang off the side of the step. Keep the stationary leg stable while you lower the outside leg by letting your pelvis drop downward.

Engage your abdominals and glutes as you slowly raise the pelvis so that it aligns with the stationary leg. Repeat 10-15 times on this side and then switch sides. 

This move is going to strengthen your glute medius, which is the smaller glute muscles located on the side of the buttocks. If you experience pain in the groin while performing hip hikes, skip this exercise and consult a professional.

Professional Help for Hip Tightness

Hopefully, the exercises above will help you reduce hip tightness and pain. It may take several days or weeks to notice a significant difference, especially with the strength exercises. 

If you’re looking for more than just at-home hip exercises, consider coming to visit us at ReVITALize Rehab Club. Our unique approach to treatment combines orthopedic medicine, physical therapy, and holistic medicine to reduce pain and enhance mobility.

Set up a telehealth consultation online today and learn how we can help you feel and move better today!