13 Hip Mobility Exercises to Ease Lower Back Pain

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13 Hip Mobility Exercises to Ease Lower Back Pain

The Hip joint consists of a ball and socket where the top of the thigh meets the pelvis. To be more specific it’s where the femur bone sinks into the Acetabulum socket.

The hips have a huge job to do offering stability for the upper torso and also providing locomotion. The hips sacrifice mobility for stability unlike the shoulder joint.

Movement is vital for the health of the hips because the act of movement helps: regenerate fresh cartilage, suck the nourishing synovial fluid through the joint and maintain good end ranges of movement.

Ironically it is the lack of movement of the hip joint following disease or injury that leads to their demise. With a limited blood supply to the joint it is the act of movement that produces a pumping effect bringing fresh blood in and flushing it away.

In order to maintain a healthy hip joint the joint needs to be exercised to its full range in all directions. Walking is an excellent exercise to pump nutrients into the hip joints but its limited range is not enough.

If hip joint movements are limited to only activities like walking and sitting then the hip capsules range begins to reduce. As hip movement gets limited the body begins to compensate in order to maintain optimal performance. The first area that usually gets affected is the lower back. In short, if the hips can’t produce the desired movements then the lower back will.

Although the lower back (lumbar spine) is designed for slight movement it is not designed to produce compensations for the hips and this is where the problems begin.

So for healthy hips keep moving but also work the joint through its full range to save your lower back. Here are a collection of effective hip mobility movements for you to practice:

 

# 1 – Forward Leg Swings

This is a really simple movement that you can practice virtually anywhere. Stand on one leg, hold onto something if you need help with your balance, and then swing the leg backwards and forwards. It is the backwards swing that is the most important as this range of movement is the first to go. Avoid arching your back as you swing the leg backwards and try to keep as straight a leg as possible. If you stand on a small step, box or platform you will find it even easier to swing your leg through without touching the floor.

# 2 – Side Leg Swings

Very similar to the Forward leg swings only this time your swing the leg across the body in front of you. Try to maintain a forward pointing toe position as you swing left and right. So lead with the heel as you swing across the body. Again you can hold onto something for balance but it is a great challenge to try without. If you get the hands moving in the opposite direction it will help. You will also notice that the ankle on the floor also gets mobilized during each leg swing.

# 3 – Circular Swings

The final one of the leg swing section and this movement takes the joint through a full 360 degrees. Again standing on one leg rotate the other leg around in circles by the side of your static leg. You can start with small circles and then build up to larger and larger circles. If you can perform this exercise without hold on to anything you will also develop stabilizing strength in your standing hip. Try 60 seconds of circles without putting your foot down and you will see what I mean.

# 4 – Yoga Squats

Probably one of my favourite mobility exercises because it not only helps mobilize the hips but also most of the other joints too! Start off with hands above your head and drop down into a deep squat, keeping your weight on your heels. If you find it hard to get down nice and deep then turn your feet out slightly and widen your legs. Once down place your hands down and straighten your legs. Next sit back down into the deep squat and stand again. Start performing 10 Yoga Squats every morning and it will change your life!

# 5 – High Step

This movement not only opens the hips of the one leg but also encourages hip extension with the other. Remember hip extension is the first range to go so it’s a great movement to practice. Start facing a chair or high step. Place one foot up onto the chair and carefully kneel down on the floor with the other leg. Next push your hips forwards and crown of your head upwards. Squeeze the buttock of the leg kneeling on the floor. Try not to arch your back, the movement must come from the hips not the lower back.

# 6 – Deep Lunge

Wow this movement will certainly give your hips a new lease of life. Starting from a Push Up position take one foot and place it to the outside of your hand. Next breathe out and sink your hips to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. The more flexible your hips become the further forward you can place your foot.

# 7 – Cossack

Not just a great dance move but also an excellent hip mobility exercise. Start with your feet double shoulder width apart with your toes pointing outwards. Hold onto a chair, table or stability ball in front of you if necessary. Next drop into a deep lunge on the one side keeping your heels on the floor and keeping the one leg straight. Hold at the bottom for a few seconds and then repeat on the other side.

# 8 – The Frog

Taking a stretch from the ballet world ‘The Frog’ will really help to open up those hips but it is an aggressive stretch so be careful. Start on your hands and knees making sure you have a mat or soft surface beneath you. Next slowly spread your knees apart keeping your feet together. Take your time, the more mobile your hips the deeper you will be able to drop into the movement. Certainly not recommended for the beginner but a great stretch for when you are ready.

# 9 – Baby Pose

One of my favourite hip mobility exercises for beginners and very simple to perform. Lie on your back with your feet in the air. Next reach up and grab the outside of the feet. Gently pull one knee towards the armpit followed by the other. You can work on rhythmical patterns here alternating legs or pulling both at the same time. As your mobility improves sink your knees deeper and deeper into your armpits.

# 10 – Pigeon Lunge

A slightly more advanced exercise that will help open up a tough hip capsule. Start in the Push Up position and then take one leg across and underneath your body. Lay the leg flat so your knee is pointing forwards and underneath your chest. Next slowly lower yourself onto the knee and support yourself on your forearms. Take deep breaths and let your hips sink down towards the floor. For an even more intense stretch reach out your arms in front of you and lay forwards.

# 11 – Dynamic Hip and Thoracic Spine

This is an all encompassing movement that not only opens up your hips but also strengthens the core and opens up the often locked up Thoracic Spine. Follow the same movement as the Deep Lunge but once the foot has been placed next to the hand take the arm closest to the instep of the forward leg and place the forearm on the floor. Next take the same arm and reach up and rotate the chest, opening the upper back. Hold for a few seconds and the repeat. 5 on each side is a good start.

# 12 – Figure Four

The Piriformis muscle can literally be a pain in the arse. This movement not only helps to stretch the Piriformis muscle but also the very strong Gluteal muscles that effect the positioning of the femur in its socket. Start by lying down on your back with your knees bent and both feet touching a wall. Next cross one leg over so the ankle rests just above the knee. Apply gentle pressure to the knee to feel the stretch in your buttock. The more your legs are bent and you’re closer to the wall the stronger the stretch.

# 13 – Step Overs

A nice easy movement to practice but one that is often performed badly. From a standing position take the knee out to the side and lift the foot. Next rotate forwards and place the foot down in front of you. Repeat on the other side. You should actively be moving forwards looking like you are stepping over something. Try to lift the foot as high as possible but don’t compensate with the lower back. Stand tall and focus on movement solely coming from the hips.

Important Note

As with all exercises please start off slowly and progress gradually. Being able to breathe calmly and deeply is a good sign that you can handle the movement. Practice these movements little and often for maximum results!

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Comments

  1. claudia says

    Great with this exercises I save my hips from pain I perform them regulary.Thanks to them I have forgotten pain

    • says

      Everyone is different Helane but certainly maintaining mobility through the hips will be vital for nourishing the joints and improving general movement. As with all exercises take it steady and listen to your body.

  2. Matt says

    I have the worst hamstring range of motion ever. No matter how much I stretch it doesn’t improve and causes lower back/hip stiffness. I can’t wait to add these to my routine and see if they ease the tension.

    Thanks Matt!

    From a Canadian Matt

    • says

      Thanks Matt, you may also want to ask why you have tight hamstrings in the first place. Is your pelvis titled putting extra strain on your hamstrings? Is your core activation good or are your hamstrings helping to improve your core by holding onto your pelvis?

  3. Carolyn says

    Hi Greg, thanks for the great info.! Are illustrations and/or videos available for these exercises? I want to make sure I’m doing them right. :)

  4. Brianne Mills says

    Hi Greg! I’ve been looking for exercises to help my lower back pain, I had a stress fracture on my spine from volleyball, and my back bothers me alot still. So I’ve been looking for stretches to help lessen the pain and keep my hamstrings loose. Are these some that would work the best? Thanks!

    • says

      Yes these will definitely help Brianne, I can’t give specific exercises without assessing you but looser hips will take the strain away fro your lower back. You will also want to focus on your upper back mobility too!

  5. Gino A Berbieri Sanchez says

    This is excellent, I like, I will be applying in my daily life, because I suffer the back pain.
    Thank you. Congratulation you are best.

    • says

      No this won’t necessary help to prevent a hip replacement that will depend on many things from diet, to genetics and daily activities. It is however a good start for many movement issues that most people suffer from.

  6. Josie says

    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for these exercises. I have serious lower back pain and I look forward to adding them to my routine. You don’t mention how many reps to do for the exercises. Should I just use my own judgement to determine the numbers? Thanks again.

    Josie

    • says

      Hi Josie,

      Yes start off very slow and keep the numbers low, with time you can increase the reps. Most importantly spend time working on the ones you find most challenging as these are the areas that probably need the most attention. Good luck!

  7. Gwen says

    Hi Greg,

    I am a physical therapist assistant and professional dancer. In the clinic, so many of our patients with low back pain also have terrible hip mobility. I applaud you for your excellent choice of exercises and great cueing in this article! Keep up the good work!

    Gwen

  8. sb says

    At 46 I just started horseback riding again and found my hip and outer thigh pain level at a 10 – I decided to follow your exercises before and after I ride (daily) and it’s made a huge difference and also has improved my lower leg stillness because my hip joints are relaxed! thank you

    • says

      Great SB so pleased that these helped you. Especially with horse riding counteracting all that external rotation is important. Keep them going!

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