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What is Osteoarthritis of the Hip?

Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. It occurs most often in the elderly. This disease affects the tissue covering the ends of bones in a joint called cartilage. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage becomes damaged and worn out, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and restricted movement in the affected joint. Although osteoarthritis may affect various joints including the hips, knees, hands, and spine, the hip joint is most commonly affected.

Advanced age is one of the most common reasons for osteoarthritis of the hip. You may also develop osteoarthritis in the following cases: 

  • Previous hip injury or fracture
  • Family history of osteoarthritis
  • Suffer from hip diseases such as avascular necrosis and other congenital or developmental hip diseases

Hip Strengthening Exercises for Osteoarthritis

Exercising may perhaps be the last thing on your mind to do when your joints are stiff and painful. Nevertheless, exercise is a significant part of treatment of hip osteoarthritis to ease pain and stay active. Hip strengthening exercises play a crucial role to restore normal hip function and improve flexibility and strength by specifically targeting hip muscles for better management of hip osteoarthritis. Some of these exercises include:

Low-impact exercises

When starting with an exercise program, it is always better to start slowly. Some of the non-strenuous and low-impact exercises include:

  • Walking: Walking at a convenient pace either outdoors or indoors is a very good low-impact exercise. If you have issues with balance, using a treadmill with no incline helps you to hold on and walk.
  • Yoga: Regular yoga can assist with improved hip joint flexibility, strengthen hip muscles, and reduce pain. Some positions of yoga can add stress on your hips, so ask your instructor before you start.
  • Tai chi: Tai chi is a form of exercise that involves deep breaths, slow, and fluid movements that may help to relieve hip osteoarthritis pain and improve balance.
  • Stationary bike: Stationary bike exercise utilizes smooth movements to strengthen hip joints and bones without adding much stress on them. This makes it a great option for individuals with hip joint problems or injuries.
  • Water exercises: Water exercise that involves walking in water up to your waist can reduce the load on your joints and offer enough resistance for hip muscles to become stronger. This can largely improve pain and hip function.

Muscle strengthening exercises

Strong hip muscles can take off stress on your hip joints and assist with improved balance. Some of the muscle strengthening exercises include:

  • Bridge: Lie down flat on your back on the floor. With bent knees and feet firmly on the floor, rest your palms down near your hips. Now, lift your buttocks as high as possible with a straight back and lower yourself back to the floor. Do 4 to 6 repetitions.
  • Hip extension: Using the rear of a chair to balance yourself during standing, slightly bend forward and lift your left leg straight behind you as you stiffen your buttocks. Lift your leg as high as possible without arching your back or bending your knee. After briefly holding the position, lower your leg slowly. Repeat the same with your right leg and try to do 4 to 6 repetitions on each side.
  • Chair stand: Place a chair and sit towards the front of it with your feet firmly on the floor. Lean forward with your arms crossed and hands on your shoulders. Bring your upper body forward and slowly rise to a standing position with your back, neck, and head straight. Slowly revert back to your original sitting position. Do 4 to 6 repetitions.

Flexibility exercises

Range of motion exercises, also known as flexibility exercises, assists with mobility and decreasing hip stiffness.

  • External hip rotations: With your knees bent and soles of your feet touching, hold your ankles or shins and bring your upper body slightly forward. Now, gently press your knees down with your elbows and hold for about 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Hip and lower back stretch: Lie down on your back and bend your knees. Bring the bent knee slowly towards your body with feet placed flat on the floor. Use your hands and pull both knees towards the chest and up until your shoulders with each exhalation. Now take a deep breath and get your knees higher as you exhale.
  • Double hip rotation: Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet firmly flat on the floor. With your shoulder firmly on the floor, gently lower your knees to the left side while turning your head to the right side. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds. Bring the knees back to its original position and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Hip flexion: Stand upright with one arm held on to a chair or wall for support. Slowly raise the knee to the level of the hip or as higher as possible while keeping the leg straight and hold for a second before placing the foot back to its original position. Repeat the same on the opposite side with 5 to 10 repetitions on each side.
  • Hip abduction: Stand upright with one arm held on to a chair or wall for support. Keep the feet together. Slowly lift the left leg out to the left side and hold for 5 seconds and slowly bring the leg back to its original position. Keep the right leg firmly on the floor and avoid rotating the hips as you are working on the left leg. Now repeat the same on the right leg with 5 to 6 repetitions on each side.

Summary

Gentle stretches and exercises of the hips can offer pain relief, increased mobility, and stronger muscles. There are several hip exercises to choose from to achieve this objective. People with hip osteoarthritis can experiment with different exercises under their physician’s guidance and choose the ones that work best for them and incorporate them into their daily exercise routine for better management of hip osteoarthritis.

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