Hip mobility issues can often contribute to numerous other injuries or ailments. Given that the hip is the connection between the lower limb and the pelvis, it can carry significant loads but may also cause uneven stress/strains that can develop into other issues. With modern lifestyles changing, including more extended periods of sitting, this can negatively affect the hip and its mobility. In addition, with plenty of people returning to community sports recently following two years off, decreased hip mobility may affect athletic performance and increase the risk of lower limb injuries.
What is hip mobility?
Hip mobility refers to the amount and quality of movement around the hip region. The hip joint, tendons, muscles and ligaments all contribute to hip mobility. If one or more of these structures are not performing optimally, this can restrict your mobility.
Muscles are the most commonly considered part, and piriformis is often implicated, but tight hip flexors and the other glutes will all influence hip mobility. Depending on your lifestyle and typical postures, some muscles are more likely to be at play than others. Stretching the particular muscles restricting your hip will garner the best results rather than generic or basic hip muscle stretches.
The hip joint can restrict your mobility. There are a few reasons the hip joint may be restricted; some are more easily addressed than others. Often if your hip joint is suspected to be contributing to your issues, imaging can help differentiate the nature of the joint problem and the best strategies to treat/address it.
Ligaments can be causing issues resulting in decreased mobility of the hip, however, given their proximity to the hip joint, they can also be a secondary issue. Some tests can be done during an examination to assess whether any ligament tightness is involved.
Tendon issues are prevalent in the hip region, often at the side of the hip, known as “lateral hip pain”. If you have tendinitis that is causing issues, treatment usually needs to deal with reducing the inflammation. However, even if there is inflammation, there is often a weakness in the tendons, contributing to the inflammation and can cause future recurrence, strengthening the hip stabiliser muscles.
How do I improve my hip mobility?
Given that restriction in hip mobility can come from numerous different sources, identifying the most relevant factors in your specific case will help you get the most out of any management strategies.
Tight muscles need stretching but can often also benefit from heat and massage (either using a ball or getting someone to massage them). Don’t stretch all the muscles in the hope that you’ll at least get the ones you need to as overstretching! This can cause minor instabilities and hypermobility issues. If some muscles are tight and overworked, there are typically some muscles that are under-active and need to be trained and strengthened.
Hip joint problems range from minor impingement to osteoarthritis and anything in between. Sometimes an x-ray will help identify the issue so we can best formulate a treatment strategy to avoid worsening of the hip joint issue and improve the mobility of your hip in the short to medium term.
All of these short to medium-term strategies help reduce symptoms, whether pain or tightness, but longer-term strategies are required to reduce the chances of it returning. If posture contributes to your issues, then improving your ergonomics and habits will be necessary. If your hip mobility affects your exercise, then looking at the stabilising muscles, strength, and control will help improve performance and support/protect the hip or lower limb from future injury.
If you notice tightness or restriction in your hip, or you’ve had a back or leg injury and are wondering if your hip mobility has had a hand in causing it, contact the team at Fairfield Physiotherapy. We assess and treat injuries and ailments in a holistic and thorough manner in order
to identify if there is more to your presentation than the presenting symptoms, then manage treatment strategies that help reduce the risk of future injury.