Have you ever found yourself experiencing pain, tension, or stiffness in your hips or glute muscles? Having either hip pain and a ‘pain in the butt’ can, truly, be a pain in the butt, especially when you’re not sure what’s causing it or how to find relief for it.
What is it that causes tension in the hips and glutes, anatomically speaking? What changes are needed so you can find relief and start moving freely and easily again? To help you out, I’ll show you how to help you address the causes and start feeling your best again.
A Quick Rundown of the Anatomy of the Hips and Glutes
Before we begin the tutorial, it’s best that you understand the terminology used when discussing this region in your body. Here are the key terms worth knowing:
- Pelvis – The pelvis is a collection of bones that, together, form a bowl shape that runs the width of your body from hip to hip. It’s essential for supporting your spine and internal organs, as well as forming the hip socket and is where the hip attaches.
- Hip Flexors – These muscles are used to perform the hip’s flexing motion, which allows you to raise your knees toward your chest.
- Hip Rotators – Several muscle groups contribute to the hip’s rotation, allowing it to stretch and move in all directions.
- Hip Extensors – These muscles are used to extend or open up the front of the hip.
- Glutes – Your glutes are your buttocks, the largest muscles in the body, and a hip extensor muscle.
Now that the medical jargon is done, let’s move on to to how to fix things. The bottom line to know here is that while hip pain can be super annoying, it doesn’t need to take over your life or keep you from doing activities you love. In fact, with a little guidance below, you can start on your recovery today!
Tutorial for Relief from Hip Pain
1. Counteract Sitting with a Hip Extension exercise
As you may already know, sitting and repetitive movements can lead to pain and stiffness over time. Thankfully, however, these issues are completely fixable! When we sit in one position for a long time or spend a long time doing a motion that overworks a part of our body, it’s important to counteract it with some opening of the hips, the job of the glutes.
Sitting can make our hip flexors tight and our hip extensors weak. The good news is, this can be fixed! This simple motion can dramatically strengthen your various hip muscles over time, helping to find relief and start feeling your best. Here’s how to do it:
- Face a wall and put your hands against it at shoulder height.
- Lift one foot up as if you’re about to take a step forward and lean forward. You may need to move your standing leg back slightly.
- With your other foot on the floor, see how it feels to try ‘pushing the wall over’ by engaging your glute muscles on the weight-bearing leg.
- The glute muscle (butt cheek) of your standing leg should tense and slightly push your pelvis forward.
- Still pushing, think about how it would feel to be trying to push a stopped car. Apply more force and see if you can get any more tension and activation from your standing leg’s glute muscle.
- Hold this muscle activation for five seconds, then repeat 15 times on the same leg.
- Switch legs and repeat 15 reps on the other leg.
2. Deep Squat for Back and Hip release work
In my work as a physiotherapist, I support having a sense of curiosity, and allow my clients to explore what each movement feels like in each position. This next exercise is a great way to ensure the hip joint is seated deeply in its socket and gets a great back stretch and release of the deep hip rotator muscles that can hold too much tension in our day to day lives.
- Sit in a deep squat with your feet flat on the floor and feet close together. Feel free to grab onto something sturdy like the kitchen sink or a couch if needed and lean back. It should feel like the ribcage is being blocked from expanding forwards (belly breathing is limited) by the thighs.
- Gently wiggle your body from side to side. Explore what it feels like to engage the interconnected muscles around your hips.
- Add in a stretch for lower back and release for hip rotator and pelvic floor muscles by experimenting with some deep 3-dimensional breathing. Focus the breath on going out to the sides and backwards to help open up the back body and make the back muscles stretch from the inside. Repeat for 10 big breaths, then stand up and notice the difference in the ease of your breath and how the back and hips feel.
An exercise like this might sound straightforward—and it is. However, even a simple stretch like this can go an amazingly long way in keeping your hips open, stable, and flexible, which will greatly reduce tension and stiffness and keep you feeling great.
3. Clinical Pilates for Hip Positioning and Stability
Ensuring your hips are positioned in a stable manner can help relieve glute and hip pain caused by excessive sitting.
Hip stability refers to their position while performing other motions, such as walking and anything else that requires balance. Since the hips and pelvis are interconnected, stabilizing one should always mean stabilizing the other as well.
While regular stretching goes a long way in counteracting some of the tension or pain brought by sitting, people will sometimes need more guided support to feel their best again. One great example is Clinical Pilates, or reformer Pilates. At ProActive Pilates, I often make use of specialized equipment called a Pilates reformer machine for cases like these.
A reformer machine essentially allows us to experiment with adding tension and resistance to some of the most common and effective Pilates exercises. For instance, we might see how it feels to do some feet-in-straps exercises, which is a gentle and effective way to stretch, strengthen, and stabilize your hips and pelvis. Some of the exercises we might try include in the studio:
- Leg Lift and Lower – Keeping your pelvis still, slowly lift and lower your legs while squeezing your inner thighs together. This is a great way to lengthen and stretch the hamstring muscles and we can do this in 3 different angles to ensure we are lengthening and strengthening your tightest line of tension.
- Bend and Stretch – Keeping the pelvis still again, with your hip externally rotated so your heels are touching and toes are apart, you bend the knees and using your core to control the leg positioning, straighten the knees while maintaining the hip rotation angle.
- Leg Circles – You guessed it! Keep that pelvis stable, lift the legs up towards the ceiling and control the press away in a slow, controlled circle. And we do the reverse way as well, to ensure you have strength and control within your full hip range.
Of course, I always take the time to thoroughly educate my clients and teach them the correct form to ensure you’re getting the most out of each reformer Pilates session.
Finding Relief, the ProActive Way
A literal pain in the butt is no fun, especially when it’s caused by things you need to do every day, such as repetitive motions or hours of sitting. While it’s certainly a challenge to deal with tense hip joints at first, you can easily start addressing these issues and feeling your best again with a little support.
At ProActive Pilates, I’ve guided clients through the process of releasing tension and restabilizing their bodies through a customized regimen of physical exercises for over 25 years. My sessions are handcrafted to your unique physical needs and boundaries, so that you’re always comfortable as you work toward your physical health goals.