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The hips don't lie!

Last month we delved into the very important topic of foot and ankle health. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the exercises and given some thought to your footwear choices.

The next step to improving back and knee pain is to unlock your hips.

Like your ankles, your hips should have a large range of motion. You can make circles with your hips, but you cannot do that with your knee. Your knee is a hinge joint, where you can simply bend and straighten it. Thus, your knee should be a stable joint as it has a smaller range of motion. in contrast, your hip should be a mobile joint to accommodate the variety of movements it can perform.

A common factor with knee problems is that too much load gets placed on the supportive ligaments and/or joint line, resulting in injury or pain. One of the big factors I have found with knee pain patients is that their hips are really tight! Consequently, your body compensates by overloading the knee making it “unstable”, or what we Chiros prefer to call “dysfunctional”. Many of the muscles that originate from the hip insert in and around the knee. So, can you see how they are connected and can influence each other?

Likewise, your hip function influences your lower back function. The hip joints are a large ball and socket style joint which carry load effectively – ideal for bending and lifting. If your hips are tight and you cannot effectively hinge through them, you will overload the small joints connecting the vertebra in the lower back and potentially cause injury. The old saying of “lift with your knees” should be “lift with your hips”.

You might be wondering why we end up with tight hips in the first place. Essentially, it is down to our modern sedentary lifestyle. The seated position puts our hip muscles into a shortened position, pulling the ball and socket joint tighter thus limiting range of motion. As adults, we also don’t typically move our hips in every direction possible, such as sideways movement or rotation, so they are often not being used to their full potential, unless you are Shakira!

As with any lack of movement, the brain perceives this as “normal” and will compensate by sending signals down to the surrounding soft tissues to tighten up. Why send signals for the joint to be flexible when it’s not being used in this way? By incorporating mobility exercises for the hip into your daily routine or workout warm up, we remind the brain that “hey, these joints move, not only to and fro but in all directions” and the brain will accept this new information and send the relevant signals back down to the soft tissue to not be so tight.

One of the easiest ways you can start improving hip mobility is by walking. It’s the most natural movement pattern we have and one we should be doing regularly from our first steps to the day we die. A recently published study shows “the more you walk, the lower your risk of death, even if you walk fewer than 5000 steps”.

Try one of these to add more steps to your day:

  • Park at the back of the car park

  • Get off the bus 1 stop early

  • Choose to walk rather than drive any journeys from home that are less than 1 mile

  • Get a treadmill next to your home desk to take work calls on

  • Take your lunch break outside not at your desk

  • Get a dog!

Below, I have created a video with 4 simple exercises to start improving your hip mobility. You may find these hard, but don’t give up – practice will help you to move much better and pain free.


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