Ever since I wrote about my torn labrum on my hip, I have been getting a few emails from readers asking about what type of hip exercises I do at home. From my interactions with readers, I come to the conclusion that my torn labrum is not as severe as others and that my pain is a small pittance compare to what others are going through.
This post is a discussion of the type of hip exercises (including hip stretches) I do at home for my torn hip labrum to manage the pain. Please note that I am not a doctor or a personal trainer. I have no idea what is the severity of your hip injury. These are examples of hip exercises that worked for me.
Hip exercises are going to hurt
When you injure your hip or back, you want to continue to move that injured muscle group as soon as possible. The last thing I want to do when I was recovering from my car accident was move. Staying on the sofa with a bag of cookies and watching TV was all I want to do between doses of pain killers. But that is the worst thing I can do for myself. The longer your body stays still, the longer the recovery time and the more painful it is to rehabilitate that injured muscles because of muscle atrophy.
That is not to say that you spring from the sofa with a cheerful song in your head and do leg kicks like a Rockette. You might not be able to do any leg kicks for a while, but you must keep that idea in the back of your mind. The goal is not to just stop the pain, but to someday do a few leg kicks because you feel like it.
If you ever have a cast on a body part, you will notice that when you take the cast off, the injured arm or leg is weaker than your other uninjured arm or leg. This is muscle atrophy. You either use it or you lose it.
So when you injured your hip, the worst thing you can do is sit still or lay down in your bed all day. Because you avoid using your injured muscles, they hurt even more when you do use them. So you continue to limit your range of motion, which cause your injured hip muscles to get even weaker, which cause you more pain the next time you use them. Are you following this vicious cycle I am trying to paint?
You must start doing rehabilitation exercises as soon as you are able to in order to speed up your recovery.
Ice/heat therapy for your hip muscles
After the onset of the initial cause of the injury, the pain and swelling you feel are caused by inflammation in your injured hip muscles. Inflammation is your body’s trumpet call before the cavalry (white blood cells) charge to heal the injured site. This is a good thing because without inflammation, there is no healing. But the problem is that sometimes your body does not know when to turn that dang inflammation off! So practice RICE while you are rehabbing your hip muscles with hip exercises.
I find that a combination of icing and heating my hip muscles works best. Icing for 20 minutes brings down the swelling cause by inflammation, then applying a heat pad for about 20 minutes to loosen the muscles after doing hip exercises. But when my hip muscles do not hurt, I do not even bother with the icing.
Please note that you should not apply heat to an injured area (this only makes the swelling worst) for the first 24-48 hours after a hip injury. Icing should be used exclusive for the first 24 to 48 hours. Afterwards, you can do a combination of ice and heat. If icing is too intense (your skin tends to get thinner as you age), try wrapping a towel around it.
I like using frozen peas because it is malleable. By using a couple of bath robe belts, I am able to tie the peas around my hip and move about even when I am icing. When the peas start to get a soft then it is time put them back in the freezer. I do not eat the peas I use exclusively for icing. I find that the freezing and thawing cycle changes the taste of the peas for me.
I was doing this every few hours (when the frozen peas harden up again) for weeks after my car accident. Of course, at the time, I also injured my back. So imagine a short Chinese woman with a bag of peas tied around her left hip and a bag of peas tied around her back with multi-colored bath robe belts, shuffling around her apartment with bad hair. Yeah, that was me four years ago. It wasn’t funny then, but I can see it having the potential of being a sitcom episode now.
I never do my stretches without a small warm-up (I used to be able to, but not anymore). Remember how I mentioned that your heart rate from computer work is almost equivalent to sleeping? When you get up from any sitting position, your muscles are not primed for stretching. When you are warmed up, your body actually recovers faster and you are less likely to injury your muscles. So before you do any stretching, get up and walk around a bit to warm up. Here is a list of hip stretches I do on a regular basis:
Warrior pose (pay attention to the feet placement)
triangle pose (pay attention to the feet placement)
Sun salutation (only arch your back if you can)
Groin stretch (try this stretch moving your toes closer and further from your body. You can hit different parts of your hip muscles)
Strengthening your hip muscles
Ditto on the warm-up discussion on the hip stretches section.
Exercise dvds for your hips
I prefer to follow an exercise dvd for my hip stretches and hip exercises. The reason why I like exercise dvds for hip rehabilitation exercises is that I do not have to think about it. I just follow what what is on the screen. I recommend the following exercise dvds for hip rehabilitation:
Rehab Your Body At Home (approximately 20-25 minutes if you do both Part A (easy) and Part B (harder))
Pick Your Spot Pilates (the “spot” you want to pick is your thighs. approximately 15-20 minutes)
Sara Ivanhoe’s 20 Minute Yoga Makeover – Sculpted Buns & Thighs (approximately 20 minutes, more advance)
Final thoughts about hip exercises
I have been living with a torn hip labrum for the last four years. It took four years, 3 chiropractors, 2 rounds of physical therapy, and 2 orthopedic surgeons to finally diagnosis the pain on my hip. The tear is small enough that my doctor does not consider surgery an option right now (who knows if this will change after my first pregnancy), but the torn hip labrum is painful enough for me to need hip exercises and a combination of icing and heating on a regular basis. I cannot say that I am pain free, but considering where I was 4 years ago, I am just thankful that I am able to live as I did prior to my car accident with only a few modifications to my lifestyle.
My hip joint itself is in good condition. It is the tear on the labrum that is causing me pain. It sometimes makes a crunching sound when I do the clam exercise where you are lying on your side, opening and closing your bended leg. Because my hip joint is in good condition, my doctor feels that I should continue with my hip exercises since it is helping, but you should check with your doctor in case your torn hip labrum is more severe or there are problems with your hip joint.
If you want further ideas on how to treat your hip injury at home, you might want to consider reading Heal Your Hips. Reading this book a few years ago gave me the idea of doing hip exercises on a regular basis to manage my hip pain. All the above exercises can be done with modifications in a pool. Pool exercises are actually the first step to rehabilitating your hip muscles after hip surgery before doing them on the ground. Heal Your Hip will give you photos and a list of pool exercises you can do if you are not yet ready for rehabilitating your hip on the ground.
In addition, I also use a foam roller to massage away the tightness on my hip on regular basis.
One final thing, you will get better. Your body is a wonderful machine designed to heal itself, but it is also a slow clunky machine. Understand that even though you might be causing yourself some pain from doing hip exercises, but in the years ahead you will feel better. Sometimes it is discouraging when you are doing everything you can and the pain does not stop. But you will get better.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
- Torn Hip Labrum during Pregnancy
- Deep Tissue Massage using Foam Roller Exercises for Hip Pain, Part 2
- Can a Torn Hip Labrum Heal Itself?
- Specific Reader Questions about Torn Hip Labrum and Pregnancy
- My Hip Pain is from a Torn Labrum
- Deep Tissue Massage using Foam Roller Exercises for Hip Pain, Part 1
Like what you are reading? How about subscribing? It's free!