5 Best Exercises For Arthritis Of The Hip

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Watch the video to learn the 5 best exercises for arthritis of the hip that you can do at home without exercise equipment. Learn to relieve pain and improve mobility in your hip.

7 Simple Tips To Get Rid Of Hip Pain by Dr. Dave Candy, More 4 Life Physical Therapy, St. Louis, MO

What Are The Best Exercises For Arthritis Of The Hip?

You can search the internet and find all kinds of exercises for arthritis of the hip.

...so many exercises in fact that it can be overwhelming!

How do you know which exercises to do and which exercises to avoid?

In this post, I'm going to share 5 exercises for arthritis of the hip that you can do at home without exercise equipment.

I've chosen these 5 exercises because they'll give you the most bang for your buck when you're exercising so you can relieve your hip arthritis pain without having to spend all day doing exercises.

  1. aerobic activity
  2. mobility or flexibility exercises
  3. strengthening exercises

What Does Hip Arthritis Pain Feel Like?

Before we get started, I probably should explain what I mean by hip arthritis pain.

There are a lot of different places that people feel hip hip pain:

  1. over the outside of their hip
  2. in the back of the hip / buttock
  3. groin pain

Hip Pain On The Outside Of Hip

The most common type of hip pain people have is pain on the outside of the hip.

However, that type of hip pain usually has more to do with soft tissues, either your IT band that runs down your leg or the bursa over the outside of your hip or the tendons of the gluteal muscles on the side of your hip.

And even if you have hip arthritis on your X-ray, if you're having pain on the outside of your hip, it's more likely that that's being caused by soft tissues rather than actually from the arthritis.

Back Of Hip / Buttock Pain

Pain in the back of the hip (buttock pain) can be caused by the joints in your lower back, from sciatica, or from an SI joint problem.

Hip Arthritis Groin Pain

Although people with hip arthritis often have stiff muscle in the back of their hip such as the piriformis, pain that actually comes from the hip joint itself is most often felt in the groin.

Therefore, the exercises in this post are best for people who have groin pain from hip arthritis.

Exercises For Arthritis Of The Hip

Aerobic Exercises For Hip Arthritis

The first category of exercises is aerobic activity.

Walking is really the best form of aerobic exercise for people with hip arthritis.

The reason for that is that the cartilage covering your hip joint is like a sponge that has soaked up water.

In this analogy, the "water" is a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid.

As you walk, you compress the sponge (hip joint cartilage), and it squeezes out synovial fluid into the joint space.

That synovial fluid helps lubricate your joint and allow it to move more smoothly.

But what if I get hip pain when walking?

Although waling is a good exercise, lot of people who have arthritis in their hip may experience hip pain when walking for long periods of time.

To truly get the best effect out of your walking in terms of cartilage health, you want to walk for thousands of repetitions.

If you have pain when you're walking, in order to be able to walk longer, you can walk in the water or on a treadmill holding on to the handrails.

Another really easy thing to do though is to use a cane when you're walking.

I don't want to use a cane.  It makes me look old.

A lot of people have apprehension or don't want to use a cane because they're afraid that it makes them look like they're getting older.

However, there's nothing wrong with using a cane, especially if you're just using it to allow you to walk for longer periods of time.

By walking longer periods of time, you'll help make your joint and the cartilage healthier so that you can eventually walk longer without needing a cane.

How to use a cane when walking with hip arthritis

The way that you use a cane when you're walking is to hold the cane in the hand opposite from your painful hip.

So, if you're having pain in the left hip, you'd use the cane in the right hand (and vice versa).

That means you may not necessarily hold the cane in your dominant hand.

For example, if you're right handed but having right hip pain, you'd want to use the cane in your left hand.

Next, you want to move the cane and the opposite leg at the same time.

So that's HOW you use a cane for hip arthritis.

But WHY should you use a cane for hip arthritis?

When you walk with a cane on the opposite side as your painful hip, it takes some of the pressure off of your sore hip and puts it over onto the cane.

That allows your hip muscles not to have to work as hard, especially if they've gotten a little bit weaker.

We'll get to WHAT to do if your hip muscles have gotten weaker in just a bit.

But if they HAVE got gotten weaker, it's going to cause your pelvis to drop down when you're on one leg while walking.

pelvic drop during single leg stance can cause hip pain

That can create a pinching compression in your hip joint, which doesn't feel good if you have hip arthritis.

However, by using a cane in the opposite hand of the side where you have the hip arthritis pain, it can help counter balance you so that you don't tip tip over and cause compression in your hip joint.

Walking with a cane for aerobic exercis for arthritis of the hip

Ultimately, that will allow you to walk for longer periods of time.

And by walking longer and longer periods of time, your muscles get stronger and your cartilage releases synovial fluid into your hip joint.

Both of these things help improve your hip arthritis pain so that you CAN walk long without using a cane.

So it's NOT like once you start using a cane that you're going to be on it forever. 

(Truly, that's most people's fear about using a cane. They view it as a slippery slope that once they get on a cane that they'll never get off of it, and may even progress into eventually needing a walker or a wheelchair.)

Instead, using a cane for hip arthritis is just a bridge to allow you to do the exercise that will help you get healthier in the long run.

Why else use a cane for hip arthritis pain?

The other side benefit of using a cane is that if you have hip arthritis, it's likely that you also have some balance problems.

Using a cane in your opposite hand also helps widen your base of support when walking make you a little bit more steady on your feet so that you don't have the risk of falling.

So that sum up the topic aerobic exercise for arthritis of the hip.

The next category is mobility and flexibility exercises for hip arthritis.

Mobility and Flexibility Exercises For Arthritis Of The Hip

There are lots of different stretches that you can do if you have hip arthritis, but I'm going to discuss the 2 of them that will give you the most bang for your buck.

If you're taking the time to exercise, you want to make sure you get the most benefit out of the time you spend. These 2 stretches will help you do that.

In general, there are two main motions that people with hip arthritis have difficulty with:

  1. Rotating your hip as if crossing your leg to put on a pair of shoes
  2. Bringing your knee up toward your chest

There are other hip motions that are limited when you have arthritis, but these two are the ones that tend to give people the most functional difficulties.

Hip Arthritis Exercise To Help With Crossing Your Legs

A lot of people with hip arthritis have trouble crossing their legs as if putting on shoes.

So if you're having trouble with that hip rotation movement, the "piriformis stretch", is a great exercise to help with that.

I put piriformis stretch in quotes because although this exercise is normally done to stretch your piriformis muscle for conditions like sciatica, in this case, it's really just working on your hip range of motion.

You may feel the stretch in the back of the hip in the piriformis area.

You may also feel it in the inner thigh, or you may feel it in the groin.

Or it might be some combination of those three.

In any event if crossing your leg to put on a shoe or sock is difficult for you, the best exercise to help with that is one that closely resembles the movement that you're having trouble with.

hip rotation exercise for arthritis of the hip

How to do the hip rotation stretch

  1. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee like a figure 4.
  2. Allow your knee to fall down toward the ground ONLY as far as you can comfortably.
  3. Hold the stretch 1-2 minutes.

If you need to make the stretch more intense, you can push down on your knee.

However, if you get groin pain when doing the stretch, or if you just don't have the mobility in your hip to be able to cross your legs, you can modify the exercise to make it less intense.

modified hip rotation exercise for arthritis of the hip

To modify this stretch, put your foot on step stool or an ottoman instead of bringing it all the way up over your opposite knee.

As you improve your range of motion, then you can eventually progress to getting the leg up over the opposite knee.

That will help you to be able to do things like get your shoes on.

It also helps a little bit with being able to lift your leg to get in the a car or into bed.

Hip Flexor Stretch For Hip Arthritis

Another great exercise that you can do for hip arthritis is a hip flexor stretch.

It's a good exercise for two reasons:

  1. It helps you with bringing your knee up closer to your chest, which a lot of people with hip arthritis have difficulty doing.
  2. However, it also helps you with hip extension - getting your leg behind you, for example when you're going to take a step.

The nice thing about doing a hip flexor stretch, is that it works both legs at the same time.

lunge exercise for arthritis of the hip

If you go into a partial lunge, you're stretching the hip flexors of the rear leg as well as your stretching the muscles in the back of your hip on the the leg that's forward.

The leg is coming up towards your chest, a motion called hip flexion.

At the same time, the rear leg is going behind you, a motion called hip extension.

So you're stretching opposite sides of both legs at the same time.

You can go all the way into a kneeling position and do it this way, or you can stay partially standing.

How far down you go depends partially on your flexibility.

It also depends of if you have knee pain when kneeling.

If you have hip arthritis, there's a good chance you may have some knee arthritis as well, and that may cause some discomfort when kneeing.

If that's the case, you can either kneel on a pillow, or just stay standing in a semi-lunge position.

So those are the two flexibility exercises that can help alleviate hip arthritis pain.

Strengthening Exercises For Hip Arthritis

The third classification of exercises for arthritis of the hip is strengthening.

We just discussed doing a semi-lunge a s a hip flexor stretch.

However, lunges are also a great exercise to help you if you have weakness in your hips.

full lunge exercise for arthritis of the hip

Lunges helps you control your side-to-side stability, as well as strengthen your gluteal muscles and qudriceps.

In order to do lunges properly, you want to keep your knee aligned with your foot.  Don't allow your toes to drift inward of your toes.

Additionally, to strengthen your gluteal muscles, you want to focus on keeping your weight more through your front heel than through your toes.

Lunges are also a great functional exercise because they help you with getting up from the floor, which is something that becomes increasingly more difficult for people as they age.

Note: When you're doing lunges, make sure to hold onto something for balance so that you don't fall while you're exercising. 

Balancing On One Leg

The next strengthening exercise for hip arthritis is to target the muscles on the outside of your hip.

As mentioned above, if you tip over to the side when walking, it can create compression inside your hip joint.

pelvic drop during single leg stance can cause hip pain

Strengthening the muscles on the outside of your hip helps prevent you from experiencing groin pain while walking. Standing on one leg and trying to keep your pelvis level with the floor is a great exercise to help strengthen these muscles.

pelvis level single leg stance exercise for hip arthritis

(Make sure to hold onto something if you have balance problems.)

You can progress this exercise by doing little mini-squats or bending your knee such as when going up or down stairs once you have built up your stability and strength.

Doing minisquats is a good exercise for people with hip arhtritis to be able to climb stairs more comfortably.


Do these 5 exercises for arthritis of the hip daily, and you should start to see gradual improvements in your hip pain and mobility over time.

However, if you've already been doing exercises for a long time, or you're just tired of dealing with hip arthritis pain, there are some additional treatments that can supplement hip arthritis exercise.

Having hands-on treatment to get your hip joint moving better as well as to loosen up some of the stiff muscles around your hip can help speed up your progress and allow your exercises to work faster.

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