Hip groin pain can be a symptom of hip osteoarthritis but isn’t something you just have to live with. There are ways to find relief and reduce the tight muscle feeling in the front of your hip. Strong research points to movement as a primary intervention to help with this type of pain. In this article you will learn strategies to help you find relief!
If you have hip osteoarthritis, research has found that some common areas for pain include the groin and the buttocks.
There can be many different reasons for pain, particularly in this areas, such as muscle imbalances, movement compensations, overuse, increased inflammation, and previous injury, just to name a few.
Your hip is a complicated joint and can move your leg in three main ways: forward, sideways, and backwards. There is also a degree of rotation, both external and internal rotation.
When looking at hip groin pain, it is important to rule out a mechanism of injury– meaning was there a specific point of injury where you felt a pull or a pop. If this occurred, there may be something more serious going on and it’s important to seek out help from a medical professional first.
If pain seemed to appear gradually or spontaneously without a specific mechanism of injury and you have a history of hip osteoarthritis, you may find these tips below helpful!
But first, I want you to know there is hope.
Why your groin is hurting...
First, it’s important to talk about what may be causing the hip groin pain in the first place.
Think about this.
Your hip primarily moves your leg in 3 directions: forward, sideways, and backwards.
There are a few muscles that are responsible for advancing your leg forward, for example when walking. Highlighted in the picture below are 2 muscles that are primarily responsible for this movement. Look at the black circles highlighting where they run.
Now can you see where the groin pain may originate from?
Also, the psoas major connects to the spine so it can have a connection to back pain as well…
The pain can originate for a few different reasons but one of the common ones is overuse.
Think about how you typically move throughout the day. Walking to the bathroom, kitchen, mailbox, etc. you are likely moving forward. Then if you use walking as exercise, again, you are likely moving forward.
Notice a pattern here? You’re probably doing lots of forward movement so these muscles may be getting a lot of work. They may become irritated and tight.
Remember, your hip also has muscles that help move sideways and backwards. They may be getting a little neglected without variety in your movement.
Now ask yourself, have you changed the way you walk since developing hip pain/osteoarthritis? Do you find yourself limping?
When you’re limping, its your body’s way of trying to adapt and spend as less time on that leg as possible. Your leg may feel heavy as well. Now, those muscles in the front of your hip are working extra hard to swing your leg forward.
This is one of the reasons for hip groin pain. Now, onto the movement to avoid.
Hip Groin Pain: What to avoid
One commonly prescribed exercise when you are dealing with arthritic hip groin pain may actually end up causing more pain…
But don’t worry, I’m going to give you three movements to try instead!
So what movement should you avoid?
The straight leg raise. Until you find relief and your hip groin pain calms down, this exercise should be modified or avoided to prevent flaring up your pain.
You may have been given this exercise from a physical therapist in the past or saw someone online do it in a video.
Why should you avoid this?
After learning what you just did about the hip muscles, can you see why this one may not be the best?
This muscle is asking those muscles in the front of your hip to work even harder. When your muscles are irritated, this may increase the pain.
I do want to say, this is NOT a “bad exercise” that should never be done. As a physical therapist I use this movement quite often in varying situations.
If you are experiencing hip groin pain and your muscles feel irritated and tight, there may be other movements to prioritize first.
3 movements to focus on instead
Movement variety is your friend, especially if you have hip arthritis. You need support from all sides of the joint to help with pain relief.
The next three movements will be focused around including more variety and taking the stress off of your hips.
One of the best ways to incorporate movement variety is to challenge different muscles but in ways that will be nice to your arthritic joints. If you want to skip right ahead, the free 4 day Arthritis Friendly Workout Challenge will help you get started on the right track to variety with follow along videos with me!
1. Backwards stepping
Moving backwards helps to work the muscles in the back of your hip: primarily your glutes. These muscles are extremely important for hip support. One of the largest muscle extends your leg, i.e moves your leg behind your body.
Backwards steps can be one way to start to challenge the gluteus maximus (the largest of the 3 gluteal muscles).
Here is a video demonstration of a simple movement of stepping backwards that you can try.
If this does not feel good or increases pain significantly, this may not be the best exercise for you to start with and that’s okay.
Use support as needed and try 5-10 reps each side.
2. Sideways stepping
Sideways movement works another layer of the gluteal muscles, the gluteus medius.
Sideways movement is not something most of us incorporate in our daily lives very often. Unless you are playing sports or consciously moving sideways, that muscle may not be getting as much challenge as it requires.
This is a simple exercise below that you can try to see how it feels for you. Use support if needed and only step out as far as is comfortable.
Try 5-10 reps on each side to start and increase as you feel confident. This should not increase pain significant. If it does, you may need another variation of this movement.
3. Hip hinge
With arthritic hip groin pain, the idea is to work other supporting muscles and allow the muscles in the front of your leg to relax.
This is another great movement that can help take stress off of the hip flexor muscles, while working the backs of your legs.
The goal is to feel a stretch in the back of your legs by sending your hips back and away from the chair. Go down only as far as is comfortable.
Try for 8-10 reps of this and see how it feels for you. If it causes significant pain, that’s your joint telling you, “Hi, I need a modification of this please!”
The key to hip groin pain
That’s the key to reducing arthritic hip pain. These are just a few movement suggestions to get started with.
To make long lasting change, you then need to continue to progress these movements and challenge the muscles in a different way.
The best way to do that is to sign up for the free 4 Day Arthritis Friendly Workout Challenge. You will get access to 4 workouts led by me that will help make your joints feel good.
Sign up for that below and get started today towards hip groin pain relief!
The Arthritis Adventure Blueprint
Dr. Alyssa Kuhn’s signature program to help you go from hopeless to hopeful with osteoarthritis. You will learn the secrets to arthritis pain relief that actually work- including exercise, diet, and other ways to control inflammation! Say goodbye to short term pain relief, it’s time to make it last.
Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post, video or site. Complete all exercises at your own risk.