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Dealing with Pain Part 4: Healthy Hips

"The hip joint and all its connected parts take up a lot of real estate, so it’s vital you do everything you can to keep that joint healthy."

From fractures to wear and tear issues, taking measures to avoid hip injuries becomes very important after the age of 40. In today’s part 4 in her series on pain, Dr. Nancy Lin presents new research on hip health, highlighting what we need to focus on when it comes to our hips — from the right exercise and stretching, to dietary and lifestyle changes that can make a big difference. 

Video Highlights

  • 01:29:The Hip Joint
  • 08:35:Common Hip Joint Issues
  • 12:42:Ways to Take Care of Your Hips
  • 13:53:Anti-Inflammatory Foods
  • 17:43:Arthritis/Osteoarthritis
  • 22:22:Exercises To Strengthen The Feet
  • 28:13:Exercises to Strengthen the Hips
  • 30:03:Top 7 Hip Stretches
  • 41:41:Wrap-Up

The Hip Joint

Inpart 3 on the shoulder joint, we talked about the fact that there are three joints that make up the shoulder girdle. One of those joints is theglenohumeral joint — which is a basic ball and socket joint, meaning the head of the arm bone attaches to a socket within the shoulder blade. 

The hip is a similar type of joint.But in the case of the hip, the head of the femur, or thigh bone, attaches to a socket within the pelvis. In fact, the hip joint is the largest ball-and-socket joint within the body. Like so many of the other joints we’ve discussed, the hip joint is also a synovial joint. 

A synovial joint is a joint lined with a small sack called asynovium that’s filled with fluid that lubricates and nourishes the joint. 

The hip joint is also surrounded by another type of fluid-filled sacs calledbursae, which provide cushioning for the joint. We’re going to circle back to this bursae when we discuss common conditions and diseases that affect the hip joint. 

Additionally, the hip joint is held together by bands of ligaments that help provide stability. It’s also surrounded by a number of muscles that help you move, including:

  • The gluteals – the muscles of the butt
  • The adductors, which are the muscles of the inner thigh
  • The iliopsoas muscle – fun fact: the psoas is one of the longest muscles in the body. It extends from the middle of your back to your inner thigh or groin area.
  • The quads – the muscles located in the front of the thigh
  • The hamstrings – the muscles located in the back of the thigh

An injured hip is serious stuff, because your hips are a hub of nerves and blood vessels that run right through them, including thesciatic nerve, which can cause an incredible amount of pain when it becomes pinched or excessive pressure is placed upon it. 

Needless to say, the hip joint and all its connected parts take up a lot of real estate, so it’s vital you do everything you can to keep that joint healthy.

In our knee joint episode, Dr. Nancy mentioned that the knees absorb 1.5 times your bodyweight with each step. Well, the hip joint withstands an incredible amount of pressure and wear and tear, as well. Where the two differ, though, is the large size of the hip joint allows it to tolerate more of that wear and tear. That’s not to say it can’t wear down. 

Common Hip Joint Issues

  • Bursitis — this occurs when those fluid-filled sacs called the bursae that we mentioned become inflamed and cause pain, especially when you’re performing every-day activities like walking up stairs. Hip bursitis tends to affect more women than men 
  • Tendonitis — Tendonitis in the hip usually occurs due to overuse or an injury. The tendons where the thigh bone enters the pelvis becomes inflamed and cause swelling, which leads to irritation, achiness, and discomfort in and around the joint
  • Dislocation or fracture — these are especially common in elderly people, and result from a fall or a direct blow to the joint. The femur either comes out of the socket, or a fracture occurs along the upper part of the thigh bone. The result is extreme pain, swelling, and either limited or no mobility in the joint. Avoiding hip fractures as we age is very important. That’s why we need a diet and supplement support that is high in essential minerals, like magnesium, boron, and calcium, such as theSmarter Multivitamin. A fractured hip in the senior years can mean a permanent loss of mobility. 
  • Arthritis, is another common hip issue. Read on to discuss this one in more detail
  • Last issciatica. Check out ourother articles on how todeal with this painful condition.

Did you know that from the year 2000 to the year 2010, the number of hip replacements proceduresmore than doubled? 

Most of those people who received a hip replacement were 45 or older. That’s relatively young, so it’s essential that you do all you can do to help keep your hip joint in tip-top shape. It would be great to see the number of hip replacement procedures performed go down, not up!

Ways to Take Care of Your Hips

Some things you need to do include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods
  • Exercise (certain types in particular are a must)
  • Stretch regularly

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

The first two — maintaining a healthy weight and eating anti-inflammatory foods — go hand in hand. Being overweight, even by only a few pounds, adds a lot more pressure on our joints, especially the hip andknee joints. However, by following Dr. Nancy’santi-inflammatory diet, weight-loss should come fairly easily. The diet includes whole foods like:

  • Lean proteins, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, trout, and mackerel, but chicken, eggs, and turkey are good choices, as well as certain beans, lentils and more ifyou’re vegetarian
  • Leafy greens like spinach
  • Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower
  • Fruits like tart cherries, grapes, berries, and apples
  • Nuts like walnuts, cashews, and almonds
  • Seeds like chia, pumpkin, and flax
  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth

You’ll be decreasing your chances of experiencingchronic inflammation, which exacerbates joint pain. Also, anti-inflammatory foods tend to be low in saturated and trans fat and high in mono- and polyunsaturated fat — which is one of the reasons it so effectively promotes weight loss, as well aslowering blood pressure and lowerscholesterol

Arthritis/Osteoarthritis

Exercise, of course, can also lead to weight loss. However, interestingly enough, one theory as to why there are so many hip replacement procedures taking place today is that people are becomingmore active. A large number of people receiving hip replacements are people who live active lifestyles. That’s because the cartilage in the joint wears down faster than it would for someone who is not very active, and they sometimes get arthritis as a result. 

Osteoarthritis, by definition, is a wearing away of the cartilage of the joint. Once that happens, you eventually get to a point where bone is grinding against bone in the socket, which can cause inflammation and be very painful. 

If you’re experiencing hip pain, how do you tell the difference between normal stiffness and something more serious? Some common symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Limited range of motion
  • Walking with a limp
  • Pain that radiates into the groin, thigh or knee
  • Pain when you perform everyday activities
  • Excessive stiffness in the hip

That’s not to say you should stop working out — we would never suggest that! You might just need to modify your level of exercise, or what exercises you typically do as you get older. Maybe switch to a lower impact exercise likewalking or cycling, as opposed to pounding the pavement 5 days a week.

So let’s talk about that hip-foot connection. Believe it or not, strengthening the muscles in your feet can help keep both your knees and your hip joints become stronger. The foot, the knee, and the hip are interconnected, so when one is injured, the joints essentially communicate with and affect one another. So a weak foot often leads to hip problems down the road.

That sort of gives a whole new meaning to building from the ground up, doesn’t it? Building a strong foundation with the feet can be key to keeping your hip joints healthy and strong. 

Exercises To Strengthen The Feet

Heel raises

Hold onto a chair or wall for support and raise up on the balls of your feet for 10 to 20 reps.

Ankle rotations 

From a sitting position, lift one leg off the ground and rotate the foot clockwise about 10 times and then counterclockwise about 10 times before doing the same on the other leg. 

Ball steps

Place a tennis or lacrosse ball underneath the ball of the foot and place all your weight on it by pushing down. Move your foot around in various directions, giving yourself a little massage. This one can feel really good, you guys. 

Toe trotting

This one is easy – walk around the room on tip-toes. Work up to doing this for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, picking up the pace as you do so. The great thing about this one is that you can do it while you’re vacuuming or doing laundry or cooking dinner. 

Toe curls

This one can be fun, and you can even turn it into a little game. All you have to do is curl your toes in and out, in and out, over and over again. Make it a game by trying to pick items up off the floor with your toes, which helps to make them stronger.

Exercises to Strengthen the Hips

There are also exercises you can do to help strengthen the hips directly, including: 

  • Reverse lunges
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Sumo squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Regular squats
  • Lateral lunges
  • Lateral banded walk
  • Glute bridges

For tutorials on how to perform these exercises, we recommend you watch both Dr. Nancy’sNovice and Advanced lower body workout episodes. We also recommend you aim to do strength training exercises, like these, at least two times a week for 30 minutes each time. Doing so will strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip joint, which will improve mobility, flexibility, balance, and stability.  

Stretching is also incredibly important, especially if you’re someone who is experiencing hip pain. 

Top 7 Hip Stretches

Butterfly

From a seated position, bring the soles of the feet together and allow the knees to fall out to the sides. Bring your feet in toward the body so you feel a stretch in the inner thigh, but only bring the feet in so close that you feel a stretch, not pain. If you can, use your elbows to gently guide the inner thighs closer to the floor. 

Pigeon pose

If this next move proves impossible or too intense, wait and do the next move, which is the modified version. 

To come into pigeon pose, begin on all fours and draw your right knee forward, placing it behind your right wrist. Your ankle can be in close to your left hip. Straighten your left leg behind you and take a peek at it — you want to make sure it’s straight off the hip. 

Stay in an upright position and breathe into the stretch, come down onto your forearms, or extend all the way down onto your torso. 

Switch sides. 

If that is too extreme, find a chair to sit in, cross your ankle over your opposite knee, and cascade your torso down toward your thigh. Remember to keep your back straight and not bent.

Figure-4, or reclined pigeon pose

Lie on your back with both feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and take hold around the left thigh, drawing it toward the torso. 

Try to keep the right foot flexed and your shoulders on the floor. To really feel a good stretch, inhale and draw the left leg toward you and extend the tailbone down toward the floor as you exhale. 

Do this with each inhale and exhale before you switch sides.  

Apanasana, or hip and lower back stretch

For this one, simply draw your knees in toward your chest while in a reclined position. As you did with the last stretch, try and keep your shoulders on the floor and relax the head and neck. Also as you did with the last pose, inhale and draw the knees closer to the chest and exhale and lower the tailbone closer to the floor.

 

Reclined hand to big toe pose

This stretch is especially great for those of you who might suffer from sciatica. You will most likely need a yoga strap or a belt or a rolled towel for this one. 

Start lying on your back, both legs extended. Draw the left knee into the chest and loosen the leg in the hip socket — moving it side to side and drawing it closer to the left armpit. 

Extend the foot up toward the ceiling, placing the strap, belt, or towel around the ball of the foot and flexing the heel. Ground down through the left leg by pressing the hip into the ground, almost like you’re trying to make your left leg shorter. 

Take the strap in your left hand and open your left leg out to the left, going only as far as you right hip stays on the ground. 

After about 3 to 5 breaths, come back up to center, release the strap, and lower the leg. 

Repeat on the other side. 

Quad stretch

If you’re a runner, you know this stretch. Start out standing. Balancing on your right leg, bend your left knee, bringing the left heel toward your seat and taking hold of the left ankle. 

Use a chair or the wall for support if you need to. 

To feel a nice stretch in your quadricep, pull the left foot toward your buttocks while, at the same time, tucking the tailbone and engaging the core. 

Switch sides. 

Forward fold

Again, this is one you’re all probably familiar with. Stand up nice and tall, feet shoulder-width apart. Tuck the chin into the chest as you roll all the way down into your forward fold. If your hands reach the earth, great, but don’t feel like they have to. You can take hold of opposite elbows and just dangle, maybe even swaying gently side to side. 

To come up, reverse the original movement, stacking one vertebra on top of the other. 

Bonus Tip

This one’s not a stretch, but one great way to improve mobility and range of motion, you can use the tennis or lacrosse ball, or a foam roller to give yourself a little hip massage. Simple lay on your side, with the ball or the foam roller under your hip, and move back and forth, working it into your hip muscle.

Wrap-Up 

In today’s episode of Dr. Nancy’s joint series, we talked all about the hip joint, which, like theknee joint, is a major weight-bearing joint within the body. It’s the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body!

The hip joint is surrounded by tendons that give the joint stability, and is also surrounded by a number of major muscles that help it move, including the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. 

The number of hip replacement procedures is skyrocketing with each passing year. This is due to a number of conditions, injuries, and diseases that occur as a result of normal wear and tear, beginning around age 45, with issues like: fracture, bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis, and sciatica.

To prolong the life of your hip joint and to avoid injury, pain, and even surgery, it’s important toexercise regularly, stretch regularly, and eat lots of anti-inflammatory foods. 

Sometimes, though, even when you’re doing everything right — exercising and stretching regularly and eating all the right foods to help keep inflammation down — it’s still not enough. What you need in that case is a daily supplement to make sure your joints are getting all the specific nutrients they need. 

Dr. Nancy recommends Smarter Nutrition’sSmarter Joint Food. Designed originally by a world-famous foot and ankle specialist, Dr. John Hahn, this product’s track record is nothing short of amazing ,with hundreds of thousands of users. It was specifically formulated to nourish the joints, supporting both the health of the cartilage and the lubricating synovial fluid, and was clinically shown to help relieve discomfort and promote flexibility. So give Smarter Joint Food a try, and make it part of your daily joint health regimen.

We hope you found today’s episode helpful, and remember to tune in for the final episode of our joint health series, where Dr. Nancy will talk about keeping the feet and ankles healthy.

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