Physical Therapists Want Everyone Over 50 To Try This Simple 5-Minute Routine For Hip Pain

You’ve probably heard that aches and pains can add up as quickly as the candles on your birthday cake. And while hip mobility is a common cause of pain in people over 50, it often starts much younger.

“Research shows that people start to develop osteoarthritis, or joint wear and tear, as early as their 30s,” says Jennifer Self Spencer, PT, DPT, CLT, OCS, owner of Magic City Physical Therapy in Birmingham, Alabama. “People in their 50s are likely to feel the effects of arthritis, which is characterized by painful, stiff joints in the morning and after prolonged inactivity.”

Your mind may be telling you to stay in bed, but Spencer says movement can be medicine, especially a hip mobility routine. “Motion might be the last thing you want to do when you’re in pain, but activity is one of the best things you can do when you’re in pain,” says Spencer.

Spencer and another physical therapist shared a five-move hip mobility routine that will have you feeling your best in no time.

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Why do people have hip mobility issues?

The most common culprit of hip mobility issues is a sedentary lifestyle. And sadly, that’s most of us: even people who work out 30 minutes a day can spend tons of time sitting in front of a computer.

“Our society tends to be more sedentary during the day, and prolonged sitting can contribute to muscle shortening and joint stiffness,” says Spencer.

Other times it’s the literal result of wear and tear. “Hip pain can be related to the hip joint itself for reasons such as arthritis, impingement, or labral tears,” explains Zach Johnston, PT, DPT, OCSperformance therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. It can also come from muscle or tendon strains, ligament sprains or bursitis.

Why You Should Try Hip Mobility Training

Spencer says inactivity can weaken muscles, stiffen joints and make movement more difficult over time.

“Most people have heard the saying, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,'” Spencer said. “Being able to rotate your hips fully and easily is not only important for many daily activities, including walking, getting dressed, and putting on shoes and socks, but also for activities like walking, pickleball and play with the grandchildren.”

Movable hips will also help you feel more stable on your feet, reducing the risk of falling and saving you from increasingly severe pain. “Having an imbalance in hip mobility can cause a person to compensate and move too much or too little of nearby joints,” says Johnston. “This can increase the risk of injury and prolonged pain.”

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The Easiest Hip Mobility Routine

According to Johnston, this is the easiest and best hip mobility routine to incorporate into your daily life.

Knee to chest

To perform this exercise, Johnston says:

  1. Lie on your back.

  2. Pull one knee towards your chest, leaving the other stretched straight.

  3. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.

  4. Repeat 2-4 times.

“This exercise should be felt in the glutes and partially in the hamstrings,” says Johnston. “This exercise is great because it works on the hip flexion range of motion.”

Figure Four Stretch

This classic post-workout stretch is also good for hip mobility. Johnston explained how to do it.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

  2. Cross the ankle of one leg over the knee of the opposite leg. “Make it look like the shape of the number four.”

  3. Pull the knee supporting the other leg towards the chest to feel a deeper stretch.

  4. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.

  5. Repeat 2-4 times.

“This exercise is great because it works on the external rotation of the hip,” says Johnston.

Butterfly stretch

The butterfly stretch can work the abductor muscles on the inner thighs, opening up hip mobility, Johnston says. To do the butterfly stretch:

  1. Sit up straight on the floor or on a bed with your knees bent and pointed to the side.

  2. Press the soles of your feet together. “Your legs should look like butterfly wings,” says Johnston.

  3. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.

  4. Repeat 2-4 times.

“This exercise is great because it works on the hip abduction range of motion,” says Johnston.

Hip flexor lunge stretch

Lunges are often used to build leg strength. But they can also help with hip mobility. Spencer shares that you can do an elevated version on a stair or step.

  1. Elevate one foot on a stair or step.

  2. Keep your opposite foot straight with the heel planted on the ground.

  3. Shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip on the back leg, your glutes on the front leg, and your calf muscles on the back leg. Move your back foot further back if you want a deeper stretch.

  4. Keep your pelvis neutral by not arching your lower back. Hold onto stair railings if necessary for balance.

No stairs? No problem. Johnson explains that you can also do this on the floor.

  1. Get into a lunge position where one knee is on the floor under you and the foot of the opposite leg is flat on the floor in front of you.

  2. Bend the knee slightly less than 90 degrees.

  3. Lunge forward toward your front leg, keeping your trunk straight.

  4. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds.

  5. Repeat on the other side.

  6. Repeat steps 1-5, 2-4 times.

Johnston likes that lunges work on hip extensions, giving you more range of motion.

Stretch 90-90

Work on your angles (no math skills required) and hip mobility with this simple exercise. Johnston gave a step by step:

  1. Sit up straight.

  2. Bend your knees placing your feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart.

  3. Slowly let both legs drop to one side while slightly rotating your body to the same side.

“This exercise is great because it works on the external and internal rotation of the hip,” says Johnston.

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When to jump move

Movement can be a great antidote to hip pain, but sometimes physical therapists suggest ignoring it. “If your hip pain is very sharp, persistent, or prevents you from doing any of your usual daily or recreational activities, you should consult with a medical therapist to determine the right course of action,” says Johnston.

Also, if you feel pain during movement, stop – you want to feel better, not worse. movements you shouldn’t be doing in a doctor or physical therapist,” says Johnston. “Otherwise, there’s little reason to let hip pain keep you from exercising altogether.”

Next up: 7 physiotherapist-approved exercises for tight shoulders


  • Jennifer Self Spencer, PT, DPT, CLT, OCS, owner of Magic City Physical Therapy

  • Zach Johnston, PT, DPT, OCS, of Performance Therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA

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