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Can Pilates Help My Painful Hips?

When our hips are sore it’s easy to think that staying immobile is the best course of action, after all it can be very painful to walk or exercise. But some gentle Pilates movements can reduce the pain and increase the range of movement.

Our hip joints are some of the strongest in our body. The ball-and-socket joint is where the ball shape at the top of the thigh bone (femur) fits neatly within the socket shape of the hip bone (pelvis). The bones are moved by muscles and tendons attached to them, whilst cartilage and special membrane fluid help to keep the hip joint lubricated and nourished.

This type of ball-and-socket joint gives the greatest range of movement but also can be a big source of pain and discomfort – some of which isn’t actually generated at the joint itself but referred from elsewhere in the body.

What causes hip pain?

Our hips are very important for standing, walking and running (of course!) but they take a lot of impact and our sedentary lifestyle can cause havoc with hip joints. Hip flexor muscles help us to lift our knees up and bend from the hips. Sitting down for long periods causes the hip flexor muscles to shorten and tighten, this can cause pain when we walk or run (or put socks on!). Hip flexor pain is usually felt at the front of the hips.

Pain around the back or side of the hip joints can be caused by a range of different issues, from osteoarthritis where the cartilage in the joint begins to wear as we age, to referred pain in the muscles and ligaments from the lower back or bottom. There is also a condition called Piriformis Syndrome that causes restriction and irritation of the Piriformis muscle and sciatic nerve deep in the buttocks.

How does Pilates help the hips?

Pilates is excellent for hip health because the exercises strengthen the muscles, ligaments and tendons that support the bones. Pilates also helps to increase flexibility and mobility in the hip joint which reduces pain and stiffness.

Of course, Pilates also strengthens our core tummy muscles and our glute muscles in our bottom which helps to stabilise the abdomen and pelvic areas and creates a solid support for our hips.

Which Pilates exercises are best for hips?

Lots of exercises help to relieve pain and strengthen our hips, here are just a few of my favourites:

1. Glute Bridge Lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent, lift your bottom, your hips and then your back up towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes. Hold for a few seconds then slowly lower back down.

2. Clam Lying on your side with your knees at 90 degrees to your hips and your shoulders in line with your hips, rotate your top leg upwards keeping your toes together then bring your knees back together. Turn over and lift the other leg.

3. Kneeling Lunge From a kneeling position, put one foot out in front with the knee bent and gently lunge forward to feel a stretch on the front of your hips. Keep your bottom tucked in and your back straight. Switch legs to stretch the other hip flexor.

4. Toe Taps Lying on your back with your legs lifted and your knees at a 90 degree angle, brace the abs and slowly alternate touching your toes down to the ground. If it hurts to touch the floor, place a rolled up towel or small step beneath your toes to reduce the distance.

There are lots of hip-strengthening Pilates exercises that help to maintain or regain smooth, pain-free movement. If the discomfort continues, you should see your doctor for further advice.

At Gemma Pearce Fitness, we have a range of Pilates classes, online and in-person, that can help with hip troubles.

Try our Healthy Hips on demand class for just £5 for unlimited views whenever and wherever you like HERE

Find out more about our Pilates classes at

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