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Regardless of the cause, hip pain when sitting can throw a big wrench in your daily activities. Pain with sitting can affect your productivity, focus, quality of life, and leave you feeling plain miserable. Understanding what is causing your pain and potential ways to address it is the first step in feeling in control of your hip pain.
As a society, many of us spend the majority of our waking hours in a sitting position. From work, to sitting in the car, to sitting for meals and then lounging on the couch after a long day, we always seem to be sitting. While there are a variety of factors that can contribute to hip pain, there are four primary causes that are specifically related to all that sitting time.
This is the most common cause of hip pain, particularly in adults over 50 years of age.
There are two primary causes of arthritis: joint wear and tear (known as osteoarthritis) and autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis). Too much time in sitting leads to stiffness and stagnancy in an arthritic hip joint that ultimately leaves it feeling sore.
Caused by irritation and inflammation of one or more of the tendons surrounding the hip.
This is most often an issue with repetitive use of the hip. Thus, if you are spending a lot of time in a position that compromises your hip or you are up and down a lot all day these can put you at risk for hip pain.
The hip bursa is a sac of fluid located on the outside edge of the hip over an area called the greater trochanter (what we usually note as the widest point in our hips).
These cushions protect the surrounding soft tissue from excessive friction with normal hip movement. This area is most sensitive when spending a lot of time in a sitting position due to the direct pressure the hip bone puts on the bursa.
Let's face it, too much sitting leads to weak hip muscles and a poor overall body posture for activities outside of your sitting time. This makes the hips prone to muscle strain due to weakness, poor coordination and other muscle balance issues that leave you feeling sore and out of shape.
In the end, sitting for too many hours of the day is hard on the hips. Our joints are meant to be moved regularly to promote joint nourishment, optimized blood flow, and more balanced muscle use. When the hip joint becomes stagnant, problems ensue.
Common everyday postures that result in hip pain include the following:
Most of us associate radiating pain with back or nerve problems (such as sciatica). However, there are several other underlying issues that can cause pain to radiate in a specific pattern down your leg.
Being able to differentiate different patterns of pain can help you figure out the true source of your pain, and whether its coming from your back or hips. This is why consulting your physician or physical therapist can help you appropriately diagnose and treat the right underlying issues.
Arthritis - Osteoarthritis pain in the hip tends to radiate to the hip, groin, thigh, or even buttocks.
Lumbar nerve damage - Sciatica is the most common nerve issue that radiates down the back of the thigh and can leave you with a sore butt. Additionally, the femoral nerve in the low back can also be affected and cause radiating pain into the front of the thigh.
Labral tear. Tearing of the cartilage that supports the hip joint (the labrum) can lead to radiating pain to the knee, butt, or thigh.
Hip Bursitis. This injury can lead to general aching in the side of the hip.
Hip pain can be especially aggravating when it involves driving. If you are already experiencing hip pain, the added stress that comes with driving and imbalanced use of the legs (to push the gas pedal and brake) can be a recipe for disaster.
Again, too much time spend sitting, especially if it is in a less than ideal position, can lead to hip pain that makes it hard to tolerate your daily car rides. Since many of us inevitably must be in a car on a daily basis, a car seat cushion can make a world of difference.
Stretching the hips can help alleviate stiffness and promote circulation. Here are 5 effective hip stretches to start feeling better in minutes.
Hold each stretch for 60+ seconds for 2-3 sets on each side. Focus on staying relaxed and never force a stretch that feels uncomfortable or painful.
This stretch helps undo a lot of the primary stiffness in the hip from sitting. Start by getting into a standing lunge position. Then, bring the back knee down to the ground. Balancing your weight between your front foot and back knee, slowly shift your weight forward as you extend the back leg. Continue until a stretch is felt down the front of the thigh and hip (on the back leg that has the knee touching).
Sit comfortably on the floor with one leg out straight on the floor and the other bent so that the foot is touching the inner thigh. While keeping the low back straight, lean forward as you reach for the outstretched foot until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
Do not force the stretch if you cannot reach. Alternatively, you can try the stretch lying down on your back with a strap.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and supporting yourself with your hands.
To stretch the right hip, bring the outside of the right ankle and rest it on the left knee (creating an upside down "4"). To deepen the stretch, you can scoot the right foot toward your butt. Switch to stretch the left side.
Using a strap or towel, lie on your back and place it around the bottom of the foot. Bring the the entire leg (straight) up toward you. Keep the hips and back square on the floor as you let the leg fall across the body until a stretch is felt in the side of the leg.
This is a great full body stretch that also loosens the hips. Start on your hands and knees. Then, bring your butt toward your heels as far as you can until your chest is resting on your thighs (if possible). You can chose to stretch our arms out in front of you for an arm stretch or rest them at your side depending on your preferences.
Stretching and regular movement are both crucial for hip health and minimizing the risk of hip pain. Additional options for addressing hip pain include:
Spending more time standing
Taking frequent breaks from sitting, ideally every 1-2 hours. You can simply walk around or try these desk exercises.
Better ergonomics in sitting
Don't settle for suffering with hip pain. With the right treatment program and understanding you can manage your pain and prevent more serious side effects that limit your ability to enjoy life to the fullest.
For a more in depth explanation and visual, check out this video from a doctor of physical therapy.