This blog is for you if you were diagnosed with hip osteoarthritis, but also if you would simply like to keep your hip joints healthy. The yoga movements discussed will help to lubricate your hip joints and stretch the muscles around the joints. Although osteoarthritis cannot be reversed, yoga for hip osteoarthritis does not only stretch and lubricate the joints but it can also strengthen the muscles around the hip to support it. Daily exercises can help you manage the pain and slow down the progression of hip osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is mainly an ageing problem of joints, in which the cartilage (the protective, well-lubricated covering of the ends of bones) is damaged and wears down. Frequently, the cause of this wear and tear is misalignment and/or repetitive movement patterns. However, osteoarthritis can also develop after an injury, trauma, due to genetic factors or an infection. The pain and stiffness is usually worst in the morning or after a long period of sitting or standing.
Before getting a diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis, you may have felt an ache in the groin area and stiffness. The diagnosis may be frightening, because osteoarthritis is an irreversible ageing process. As it progresses, there may be swelling and pain, the affected joint becomes tighter and the range of motion is limited. There are probably many activities you took for granted which are now causing pain, such as walking, climbing stairs, or driving for a long time.
The usual doctor’s prescription is rest, ice applications, anti-inflammatory drugs for the inflammation, and physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint. It is important to avoid those movements that aggravate the pain, while simultaneously keeping the joint nourished by moving it. Before the cartilage erodes more seriously, there are exercises you can do to manage the pain and to prevent a rapid worsening.
Yoga for Hip Osteoarthritis
Yoga can help! A targeted yoga practice can help keep your hip mobile, nourished, more released and supported. Moreover, yoga can ease the stress and anxiety that may accompany the condition.
Yoga therapy can help you to:
- keep the joint mobile, moving it in its entire range of movement, thereby lubricating and nourishing the whole joint.
- gently increase the range of motion of the hip, initially best without putting weight on it.
- stretch muscles so they will not tighten around the joint and increase pain.
- strengthen muscles to increase joint stability.
- become aware of and improve your alignment and posture.
- do breath work for pain management and stress relief.
- be proactive with exercises that you can do at home.
Apart from physical benefits, yoga provides a tool to calm the mind and help you deal with pain. With the possible result of less pain and a better mood, what is there to lose? Let’s get moving and try the following exercises. Even if you don’t have hip osteoarthritis, these movements will be beneficial for general joint health.
The following exercises stretch and relax muscles rather than strengthen the joint, as this is a necessary first step. Please be mindful of pain; be very gentle and never allow these movements to hurt.
Lie on the back with the legs extended, feet shoulder-width apart. Rotate the feet towards each other with an exhalation and away from each other with an inhalation (the whole leg will roll in and out).
Still lying on the back, start with both legs bent 90 degrees and feet on the floor, shoulder-width apart, arms out to the side. Exhale and bring the knees to one side, inhale and bring them back to the centre. Exhale to the other side and repeat 4 to 8 time.
With the right leg bent and foot on the floor, place the left ankle just above the knee. If it is comfortable, bring the right leg towards you by holding it with two arms on either side of the upper leg (or use a belt around the leg). Breathe calmly in this stretch. It can be easier to do this stretch with one foot placed against the wall, which means you don’t have to hold the leg. You would lie about shin-length away from the wall.
Hold for 4 to 8 breaths and repeat with the other leg.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Start on all fours, bring the right foot forward so that the right knee is above the right foot. Place both hands on the right knee. Exhale and bring the weight forward; feel the stretch in the left hip flexor. Inhale and come back to the starting position. Repeat 4x and then stay in the position while keeping the attention on your breathing and the sensations in the body. You can also add an arm movement for a greater stretch: lift your left arm while you inhale and lower it with the exhalation, 3x.
Repeat on the other side.
Supine Tailor pose
Lie on your back with the soles of the feet together, knees out to the side. Rest for a few minutes like this if comfortable. You may want to support both knees on cushions: supporting the legs like that will allow them to relax more.
Finish by resting on the back with the legs bent and feet shoulder-width apart on the floor. Allow the knees to rest against each other and keep paying attention to your breathing while you rest.
These exercises are necessarily quite general and gentle. They are a good start, but if you would like to take it further, the best option is to have individual sessions with a yoga therapist. This would allow you to find the movements and adjustments that are right for you, and to have your alignment checked. This is now all possible online, so even if you don’t live in London, you can contact me here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/. We could organise a free phone consultation so you can decide whether yoga therapy can help you.
Have you suffered from arthritis or just been diagnosed? Have you tried yoga for this condition? Please leave a comment below. Finally, if you would like regular yoga therapy tips, do subscribe to get this blog straight to your inbox twice a month!