Did you know that injuries in the lower back and knees often come from hip joints that aren’t strong enough or don’t move well?
Be it in sports or everyday life, healthy hips are essential in avoiding injury and in achieving optimal function. That means they should be strong, stable, and mobile. So, we’ve rounded up 10 healthy tips to help you get started!
Here’s why healthy hips are important!
Healthy hips allow you to unconsciously move the thigh bone in almost any direction. Surrounding muscles and neurons power the hips into motion, assume a position, and maintain balance. Overall, the hip serves as a way station in transferring power from the lower to the upper body.
Unfortunately, optimal hip function is not something everyone can enjoy. Strenuous work, desk jobs, and even leisure activities that involve hours of sitting leads to inflexible, unstable, and weak hips.
These repetitive and unvarying exercise routines compound the problem. For example, prolonged sitting erodes strength and stability in the core and glutes. This sends a domino effect down the kinetic chain causing the muscles of the lower-body to frantically multitask, but with inefficient results.
Without smooth, coordinated movement in the hips, the lower back and knees are forced to compensate by twisting and bending unnaturally upon movement. If left uncorrected, pain to the lower back and knees are some of the problems that will follow.
Thus, keeping your hips healthy is not only good for the hip itself. The benefits cascade into other areas of the body which are all essential for movement.
So, if you want to minimise the risks of any hip issues from occurring, there are some adjustments which you can do. We’ve rounded out 10 helpful suggestions to get you started!
Read: Potential Hip Pain Causes
How can you keep your hips healthy?
Practice good posture
A lot of people are guilty of having bad posture. Not only does it make you look awkward, but standing, walking and even sitting the wrong way places unnecessary strain and stress on the muscles that support the hips.
Most people are surprised to know that the hip flexor muscles play a key role in posture. They connect the torso to the legs, playing which helps in stabilizing the spine.
Tight hip flexors due to poor posture often reveal a tilt at the front of the pelvis. It means the pelvis is rotated forward resulting in more spinal curvature. This shortens the muscles and excessively curves the spine, causing the upper body to be shifted forward. This affects alignment and prevents the hip joint from functioning well.
A sedentary lifestyle or sitting for long hours may cause this tightness. To help reduce tension in the hip flexors, get up and walk around after sitting for an extended period of time.
Keep in mind that good posture takes practice and mindfulness of how you carry yourself throughout your day. Better posture leads to a better, more comfortable life.
Regular exercise boosts muscle strength and joint flexibility. Stronger muscles mean that they are more equipped to support your joints.
One way to support the hips through exercise is to work on the thighs because they provide hip support. Strengthening the inner and outer thighs builds a muscular brace for your hips and it prevents strains in surrounding areas.
For older individuals, swimming and aqua aerobics are great ways to strengthen your hip muscles without putting so much stress and pressure on your joints.
It’s also important that you listen to your body while doing these exercises. A sharp or shooting pain should tell you to take it down a notch or hold it off entirely. Any persistent pain that disrupts your movement should be checked by a doctor.
Choose low-impact activitiesChoosing the right exercise can also help your efforts to keep your hips healthy. For example, running or jumping may aggravate the pain, but you can substitute it with walking, cycling, yoga or strength training instead. These are low-impact activities which are gentler on the joints. Stretching encourages better hip flexibility, increasing your range of motion.
Lose the extra weight
Shedding off a few pounds can help offset pressure on the joint and can help relieve any existing hip pain. If you’re 10 pounds overweight, that’s 30 to 60 pounds of pressure on every step. A 10-pound weight loss can make a huge difference on the load your hips bear.
But it doesn’t mean that you jump right into some drastic diet plan. Work with a dietitian on how to correctly reduce calories. While you’re on it, you can also ask about the right supplements that can boost joint health, specifically through cartilage formation and repair.
Lighten the loadCarrying excess weight puts more stress on your hips, even more so when it’s long-term physical strain. Some people are predisposed to this problem especially in jobs that involve heavy lifting. Long-term physical strain on the body places an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis of the hip.
Protect your hips while you sleepCertain sleeping positions also place unnecessary strain on the hips, neck, and back. Good posture doesn’t only apply only to walking, sitting, or standing. The muscles and ligaments of your back relax and heal themselves while you sleep. In order to protect your back, good posture is also important while you sleep.
Wear the proper footwear
Not only do bad shoes affect the health of your feet, they can also contribute to the health of your legs, knees, neck, back, and hips. When you take a step forward, these structures rely on your feet for proper balance and the even distribution of your body weight.
Ill-fitting and unsupportive shoes can negatively impact your joints and affect how your body is balanced when you stand. A pair of shoes that can support your heel, arch, and toe box is critical for hip alignment.
Those who play sports or are a part of activities that require a lot of time on their feet can face troubles if they don’t wear supportive and appropriate footwear. The same is true for those whose job required them to be on their feet for extended periods of time. Not wearing appropriate footwear will cause your performance to suffer.
For the sake of your overall health, choose footwear that will provide ample support and comfort.
Keep your home a fall-free zone
A broken hip is one of the most serious injuries sustained through falls. This is common especially among the elderly, which can result in them being bedridden. Whether it’s slippery floors, rickety stairs, or electrical cords, some of the common causes of falls occur in the home where one might have a false sense of security. That’s why fall prevention starts with creating a safe living space.
Watch what you eat
Sometimes, hip pain stems from arthritis. While there is no special diet or ‘miracle food’ that can cure arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, diet modifications can help improve symptoms caused by osteoarthritis.
However, aside from musculoskeletal issues, diabetes is also linked to hip fractures. In a study conducted on the Singapore Chinese population it was found that, “Asians with diabetes, like their Western counterparts, experience an increased risk of hip fracture.” Diet modification is also one of the controllable measures you can take to avoid complications.
It is recommended that you eat foods that reduce inflammation such as olive oil, dark leafy greens, nuts, fatty fish and high fiber foods.
Improve muscle strength and flexibility
This is particularly important for young athletes who are multisport competitors because strengthening and conditioning of the muscles are essential in preventing potential hip injury.
For stronger hips and injury prevention you must create balance among all local muscle groups. This involves a combination of strength, flexibility, stability, endurance, and overall body control. An imbalance of muscle dominance or tightness can put you at risk of injury, especially when athletes exceed their own performance envelope. Therefore, athletes should take the time to work on all of the muscles of the chain during training.
Questions about hip pain or treatment options?
If you have questions about hip pain and treatment options, you can get into a non-obligatory consultation with A/Professor Andrew Dutton. To book one today, you can call (+65) 6836 8000 or fill out our form here.
Read: Patient’s Guide When Seeking Orthopaedic Care in Singapore