Ergonomics And Exercises For Hip Pain

Modern life revolves around sitting. Many people sit in the car on the way to work, all day in the office, while eating lunch, and then maybe while catching some quality time on the couch while relaxing before bed. All those hours spent sitting, year after year, can wreak havoc on the body and lead to hip pain.

Making sure to sit in a healthy posture that supports the body and incorporating more movement into your day can make the difference between healthy hips and painful ones. Here are a few tips to alleviate hip pain or stop it before it begins.

Ergonomics at the office

When it comes to ergonomics, many people first think of typing while keeping the wrists at a healthy angle to prevent damage, including carpal tunnel. However, organizing your workspace so the seat rests at a good height and angle is also essential for optimal ergonomics and healthy hips.

The 1st step is to pick a supportive chair. Swiveling chairs work best because they make it easy to move around and grab files not within immediate reach, helping to minimize joint strain, says Dr. Alan Hedge, an ergonomics professor at Cornell University.

Ensuring the chair fits the body adequately is also essential. Hedge recommends using the 1-inch rule, which says that a 1-inch space should remain between the backs of the knees and the edge of the seat when sitting all the way back in the chair. The space between the edge of the seat and the hips should also measure at least 1 inch, and there should be enough room to move the arms comfortably.

The seat of the chair should be well-padded and comfortably support the hips and thighs. The feet should easily reach the floor while resting flat, while the thighs should either rest parallel to the floor, or they could slope down from the hips at an angle greater than 90 degrees. The latter posture is known as declined sitting, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

After picking the perfect chair, the next step is to make sure its height works well with the desk. The seat should rest high enough so that the wrists are able to reach the computer in a 90-degree angle, but not so high that the feet can’t reach the ground.

Finding this balance may require adjusting the height of the desk, or looking for a new chair. However, making small changes, even if only an inch or 2 in 1 direction, can have a dramatic impact on the health of the hips and other joints.

Ergonomics in the car

Guidelines for proper hip-to-body angles extend to posture when sitting in the car, as well. Make sure the feet easily reach the pedals when driving, and keep the back upright to maintain a good, 90-degree or greater angle with the hips and pelvis.

People often forget about supporting musculoskeletal health once in the car, but good posture makes all the difference for people who drive frequently.

Increase mobility

No matter how well your office space is set up, long periods of sitting cause the body to stiffen, tightening the hip flexors and increasing the risk of hip pain.

Making sure to get up every 30 minutes or so. Even walking to pour a glass of water helps to get the blood flowing and reduce the risk of hip pain. If you can incorporate some easy hip and strengthening exercises into the day, even better.

Low-impact exercises, when done in conjunction with resistance training and stretching, help to alleviate pain and increase joint mobility. Keeping the core strong can also help to reduce hip pain, says Dr. Rochelle Rosian, a rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Whether you’re at work or on the go, hip and core exercises take just a few minutes and can supplement ergonomics to reduce pain.

At work, take a break and stretch the hamstrings, since tight hamstrings can lead to hip pain, according to the University of California, San Diego Health System.

1 specific hamstring exercise involves standing up and placing the left leg in front of the right. Bend the right knee and place the hands on the thigh while bending slowly forward. Keep bending until you feel a stretch in the left hamstring. Hold for 10 or 15 seconds before repeating on the other side.

Next, stretch the quadriceps. Stand on both feet before bending the left leg back and grabbing the foot with the hand. Keep the knees together, holding on to the desk if needed for balance. Hold the foot as close to the sit-bone as possible, finding a good stretch without pain, for about 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

At home, try strengthening the outer thighs through calisthenics. Lay on your side, with the head supported by the hand. Slowly lift the top leg up, hold for 1 second, and then slowly let the leg drift back to rest. Repeat 10 times before switching to the other side.

Next, try the leg raise, which works the thighs, glutes, and hip flexors. Come to the floor with your hands underneath the shoulders and knees underneath the hips. Lift your left leg straight behind you, so it’s parallel to the floor. Pause for a second before lowering back to the floor. Repeat 10 times on the left side, and complete the same number of repetitions on the right side.

Take mobility out on the town

Breaking up the day with intervals of moving around helps to prevent or reduce hip pain, but spicing up weekend activities offers ways to stay active while having fun.

Researchers at Saint Louis University found dancing helps lessen knee and hip pain in older adults while improving mobility. Adults who danced 45 minutes, 2 times per week over 12 weeks had fun while working on their hip health.

The dancing done in the study was rhythmic, and not high impact, which reduced the potential for joint damage while still increasing strength and flexibility.

How do you manage or prevent hip pain?

Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr