Feeling hip! How to keep your hips in shape as you age

May 14, 2019
Keep your hips in shape with these pro tips. Source: Getty

Hip problems can be debilitating and hard to shake, mainly because the hip is a part of our body we use the most, similar to our lower back. And like the lower back, many hip ailments actually stem from other sites in the body.

If the brain perceives a physical problem or injury it often targets a big area in your body, which explains why hip and lower back pain is so common. The hip is such a major central joint – it’s the biggest ball-and-socket joint in our body, and can move in all directions. People often think the hip problem is a hip problem but don’t see the whole chain. Problems can spread and present as back pain, knee pain or sciatica.

What is the best way to prevent and approach hip problems?

Think back to when we were kids: we moved a lot, in all directions, pretty much all the time, which meant our hip joints were regularly moving in all available directions.
Gradually, as we age, we move less until the hip is only moving on one plane – up and down, from activity such as walking, sitting down and standing up again.

Key to understanding the hip is appreciating this joint is designed to move. Hip movement maintains lubrication in the joint and strength in surrounding muscles, tendons and connective tissue.

What are some key tips for keeping our hips in shape?

Move your spine: The hips and the spine depend very closely on each other. If you keep moving the spine you’ll be doing your hips a huge favour. Key is remembering the spine needs to move on all three planes (even though most of us mainly move on one plane – back and forward). We must also remember to move side to side, via side bends, and rotate our shoulders left and right like doing the twist, which gently rotates the spine as well.

Strengthen key muscles: your glutes are a key strength muscle group for the hips – I like to call them the ‘anti-gravity’ muscle. Build the glutes and you help the hips.

A sure sign someone’s glutes are not sufficiently strong is when they are not in alignment and one hip looks lower than the other: this is called a Trendelenburg gait.

Your glutes consist of three muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Some good exercises to work these groups include:

Clams: lie on your side with your knees and ankles together, then raise your top knee toward the ceiling, keeping your ankles together; hold then lower your knee slowly. It’s important to do some repetitions on both sides.

Glute bridge: lie on the floor, face up, with knees together and feet flat on the ground. Next, lift your pelvis off the ground until your hips, knees and shoulders are in a straight line – like you are forming a bridge; hold the bridged position for a few seconds and then slowly relax back down.

Hydrotherapy: If stiffness or pain is stubborn, hydrotherapy is excellent for hips. Hydrotherapy in chest-high water takes 75 per cent of your body weight, which allows you to move on all planes more freely.

If issues persist it’s time to see a professional.

Do you have problems with your hips? How do you manage any niggling hip pain?

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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