Sore hips don’t just come from too much Zumba, or back-to-back rounds of golf. “We sit for many hours a day, so we lose flexibility and get tight hip flexors, the muscles at the front of the hips,” says physical therapist Doreen M. Stiskal, chair and associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. Hip osteoarthritis, hip fractures, osteoporosis and overuse injuries like tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons) and bursitis (inflammation of the bursa, or sacs that act as cushions between bones, muscles, and tendons at the joint) can also turn our hips grouchy.
But there’s plenty we can do to ease sore hips. If it hurts to walk, or if you’ve had a fall, see your doctor first, says Dr. Jennifer Baima, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and staff physiatrist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Mass. Otherwise, try these remedies.
Ice. As soon as you start hurting, place an ice pack on the sore spot for 15 minutes at a stretch, says Stiskal. Ice calms swelling and inflammation, and numbs pain.
Heat. Heat’s best the day after pain begins, says Stiskal. Place a heating pad—or even a knotted sock full of raw rice heated in the microwave—on the sort spot for 15 minutes. Heat relaxes the muscles and increases healing blood flow to the area.
Over-the-counter remedies. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can help relieve inflammation and pain, says Baima.Stiskal also recommends massaging in pain-relieving creams like Ben Gay or Icy Hot. However, do not use oral and topical anti-inflammatories like Ben Gay simultaneously; they contain similar ingredients and could be dangerous if you get too many in your system.
Steroid injections. An injection of corticosteroids into the hip may help relieve pain and inflammation, says Baima.
Stretching. Stiskal recommends lying on the floor and bringing one knee toward your nose. “That stretches the buttocks muscles,” she says. Repeat on the other side. Do three sets of 10 repetitions.
Another move to try: Lying in bed on your stomach, bend your knee toward your buttocks, which stretches the front thigh muscles, Stiskal says. Repeat on the other side. Do three sets of 10 repetitions.
Strengthening exercise. Baima suggests lying on your side and lifting the top leg toward the ceiling, toes pointing forward. Do three sets. “This strengthens the gluteal [or butt] muscles, which help keep your pelvis level when you walk,” says Baima.
Walking. “Brisk walking requires our hip muscles to lengthen as each leg goes behind us,” says Stiskal. It also increases lubricating fluids in the hip joints—and it’s low impact. Start with five to 10 minutes at a time, working up to 30 minutes a day most days. “And get up and walk around for several minutes every hour or whenever you feel discomfort,” says Stiskal.