How to fix sore hips

“If you’re sitting all day, you’re going to pay the price for it”

I’ll make a hypocrite of myself if I don’t stretch before I finish writing this story. I will also have sore hips, which is nothing usual for me. It’s probably not unusual for other people who spend their days at a desk, too.

ruth macgillivray, nait grad and personal fitness trainerRuth MacGillivray (Personal Fitness Trainer ’21) would like to see that change. The owner of 46 64 Fitness routinely sees muscle imbalances in assessments she does for clients she trains.

One of the most common, and among the most significant, is located in the geographic centre of the body.

“Everything hinges on the hips,” says MacGillivray, figuratively and literally. “When those muscles are affected you have dysfunction in the upper and lower extremities.”

Sitting for long periods can cause that dysfunction, she says. The flexors at the front of the hip shorten while the gluteals, which you're sitting on for seven or eight hours, lengthen.

The effect radiates throughout the body, because the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex is connected to 35 muscles, explains MacGillivray. The result is an anatomical domino effect that compromises posture, gait and the basic ability to function without pain.

“If you’re sitting one way all day, when you stand up you’re going to pay the price for it,” says MacGillivray.

So what if your job involves a lot of time in a chair? Here’s how to strike a balance by lengthening what’s too short, and shortening what’s too long.

7 ways to improve hip health

1. Stand up – If a standing desk is an option, consider one, says MacGillivray. One of her model clients spends 60- to 90-minute sessions on her feet, which can address not just hip flexor-gluteal issues but improve circulation. “The key is to have a good mat.” If you’re wearing heels, don’t forget to take them off.

2. Keep feet on the floor – Make sure your feet are firmly planted in front of your chair, even if that means adding a footrest. Also, don’t cross your legs. Both practices can lessen the risk of strains and imbalances.

3. Support your back – Good ergonomics make a difference, says MacGillivray. This includes sufficient lumbar support, which can take the pressure off the lower back and hips.

4. Follow the 30-2 rule – Every 30 minutes, get up for two minutes. It doesn’t matter what you do, just move. “Even set a timer to do that – I know if I get wrapped up in something I'm going to totally forget.”

5. Stretch and strengthen – Alternatively, be intentional with those two minutes. The short routine in the video above will help loosen hip flexors and tighten up glutes. Engage your core throughout, says MacGillivray.  “A strong core equals healthier hips. [It’s] needed for balance and stability.”

6. Get it checked – If nothing seems to help with hip soreness, you may have a chronic issue, says MacGillivray. Consult a doctor.

7. Create a habit – The effects of those two-minute intervals will add up, says MacGillivray. “If it becomes a habit, you’ll start to miss it if you’re not doing it.”

That is, for many of us desk jockeys, there’s no need for sore hips to be a usual occurrence, as long as we’re mindful of the need to loosen up. (And, yes, I did pause for a stretch – somewhere around writing tip #2 – and I notice a difference).

“At the end of the day when you get up to go home,” says MacGillivray, “hopefully you feel a lot better than if you’d sat for eight hours.”

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