The Complexity of The Hip Joint
The hip joint is critical to our mobility. It bears our weight when we stand, sit, run or walk. The hip joint is a ball and socket, synovial joint formed between the os coxa (hip bone) and femur (thigh bone). The rounded head of the femur fits into a socket, known as the acetabulum in your hip bone, allowing for a wide range of motion. Our hip joint not only provides stability, but is also extremely flexible, second only to our shoulder joint.
The hip joint is anatomically complex and has over 15 muscles working in synergy to give the hip its full range of motion. The hip joint is connected to every part of your body and is therefore important for unrestricted, efficient movement.
Why is Hip Mobility Important for Seniors?
When your hip mobility is compromised it causes a chain reaction of restrictions all over your body. You develop a wide range of issues from back aches to knee pain. The main reason for lack of hip mobility in most people is tight hip flexors. Your hip flexors help you walk, bend over and do a number of daily tasks. When you sit for long periods of time, your muscles shorten and glutes become weak leading to hip mobility issues.
Elders over the age of 60 are ten times more likely to suffer from hip pain due to osteoporosis and other health conditions. As we age, due to lack of use, the muscles in our legs become tight, and this is known as adaptive shortening of muscles and joints.
Having good hip mobility will allow elders to carry out daily activities with ease and will also reduce the risk of lower back and knee pains. Good hip mobility can also increase the longevity of your lower body joints.
Tip: If you suffer from permanent mobility issues and can’t stand or walk for extended periods of time, you should consider investing in a mobility scooter to help you get through your daily activities.
How to Increase Hip Mobility
To help increase your hip mobility you will need to work on reducing the tightness in your hip flexors. When your hip flexors are tight, the antagonist muscles such as your glutes and hamstrings become weak. This weakness forces your back muscles to come in to compensate, leading to a range of mobility issues and pains.
If as an elder you suffer from poor mobility, and are concerned about how to increase hip mobility, the following exercises will help you. The exercises are designed particularly for seniors. Doing these exercises on a daily basis can help you improve your mobility, alleviate hip pain and increase the strength of your hip flexors.
Hip Mobility Exercises
1. Standing Hip Extension
This exercise will help strengthen your hip muscles. It improves your ability to walk and climb up stairs. Follow these steps to perform the exercise:
- Stand using a chair to balance yourself
- Extend your leg backward, keeping your knee straight. Return to start position and repeat this 10 times with each leg.
- Remember to inhale during the upward movement and exhale during the downward movement.
- Make sure to keep your knees straight during the movement.
Tip: If this feels too easy, you can take this exercise up a notch by adding 4 to 5 pound weights to your ankles.
2. Hip Marching
This simple exercise will strengthen your hips and thighs. It will also increase your walking endurance. To do it, follow these simple steps:
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor
- Lift up your right knee as high as you can, then lower your leg back again.
- Alternate between lifting your knees for a total of 10 times for each leg.
- Inhale during the upward movement and exhale during the downward movement.
- As a progression, you can also place your hands on your thighs and resist the upward movement by pushing downwards.
3. Hip Rotation
Caution: If you’ve recently undergone a hip replacement surgery, consult with your surgeon before trying this exercise.
This is a great exercise to increase your range of motion, it improves the functional use of your leg. Daily tasks such as stepping out of a car or getting over the side of your bathtub become easier when you regularly perform this exercise.
- Sit comfortably in a chair
- After that, cross your right ankle onto your left knee.
- Gently press down on your right knee until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch for 10 to 20 seconds then switch legs and repeat.
- Breathe normally during the exercise.
- While performing this exercise you can lean forward to increase the stretch.
- Remember, stretching isn’t supposed to feel painful. If you feel any pain try taking it back a notch.
- If you’re unable to bring your leg up to your knee, simply cross your legs over at your ankles, while pressing your knee down and to the side.
4. Piriformis Stretch
This exercise targets the piriformis muscle, hence the name. The piriformis muscle is a small but important muscle located deep in your buttock. It often gets tight and shortens, if you sit all day, thus leading to stiffness in your hip joint. To perform this exercise:
- Lie on your back, with both your feet flat on the floor and both knees bent.
- Pull your right knee close to your chest then grasp your right knee with your left hand and pull it towards your left shoulder.
- You should feel a stretch deep in your buttocks. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds initially and gradually increase up to 30 seconds.
- Alternate between legs and repeat the process upto 3 times for each leg.
As we age the condition of our joints, ligaments, bones and muscles deteriorate, and this further affects our mobility. Things that we often take for granted such as walking and standing can become quite a burden for seniors. Even doing these simple tasks can cause pain and discomfort for our seniors, which affects the quality of their lives.
To overcome these problems it is important for elders to understand how to increase hip mobility, considering a major chunk of mobility issues arise due to lack of mobility in our hips. The exercises given in this guide, when done regularly, can help elders improve the flexibility and overall range of motion of their hip joints. Having better hip mobility will allow you to do more tasks with ease and move with freedom, so make sure you implement these exercises in your daily routine.