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Do you have stiff hips or hip pain after sitting? Do you have to work the kinks out when standing up?

Painful Hips Sitting

Stiff hips after sitting? Have to work the kinks out? This may be why and what to do

If you’re one of the 25% of adults who spend more than 6 hours a day sitting, you might feel it at the end of the workday. An extended amount of time seated can severely impact how your hips feel when you finally get moving. Many people also report digestive issues and pain in their low back, neck, leg, and knees after prolonged sitting. You may even notice pain and discomfort showing up elsewhere before you see pain or tightness in your hips. The location of your obvious pain may not be the primary cause of your discomfort. The root cause of that disguised pain that develops due to sitting often originates in the hips.

Why Do I Have Hip Pain After Sitting?

Stiffness in your hips after sitting isn’t necessarily proportional to getting old. Hip stiffness is often simply a reflection of your hips and legs being in the same posture for an extended period.  

As you sit with bent knees, the hamstrings are relaxed, and your hip flexors are at the maximum shortened length. Hip pain from sitting might be from poor posture, but sitting 30 or more hours each week will probably decrease your hips’ strength. When you finally rise from your desk, your glutes, core, and hip muscles might feel weaker and less stable.

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A couple of things may be going on, and both are relatively easy fixes with the proper knowledge.

Three major causes of hip pain after sitting:

  • Tight and shortened hip flexors and hamstring muscles:

Hip flexors are the muscles in and around your hips that help move the legs and the trunk together, as when you lift your leg, bending at the hip. Together these muscles allow for flexing of the hip joint. They also help to stabilize the spine. Their job is to hold you in place while sitting. When you sit down, you shorten – or contract – your muscles, essentially asking them to stay “on” while you’re in your chair- keeping you from falling out of your seat.

The issue is that you are not meant to be in this seated position for a long time. Even after you stand up to go about your day, your hip flexors might feel like they’re still “frozen” in their contracted position as while sitting down. Repeating this consistently causes tight hip flexors and chronic hip pain while sitting.

  • Compression of the spine: the spaces between the vertebrae become compacted, and the hips stiffen from pressure.

Sitting in place for extended periods puts you at a higher risk for sciatica, a herniated or slipped disc, degenerative disc disease, and profound low back pain. Sitting with your hips and legs in a bent position causes joints, ligaments, and muscles to be under constant pressure and places pressure and tension on your spinal discs.

By design, the spine is made to move freely. Spinal posture is reliant on constant flexibility and movement to keep itself pliable. Spinal discs are like little jelly donuts, and sitting for long periods can contribute to your vertebrae discs getting squashed, losing their cushioning, and causing back pain.

  • Lack of proper blood flow to tissues and joints.

The hip joint is one of the true ball-and-socket joints in your body. All of the blood supply that feeds into the ball that forms the hip joint moves through the top area of the femur. There is no backup if this blood supply is damaged through compression and lack of movement. Damage to the blood supply can cause the death of the bone that makes up the ball portion of the femur, and once this occurs, the bone is no longer able to maintain itself.  

Likewise, your tendons and ligaments are dependent on nutrients and blood flow to remain strong, supple, and healthy. When weight is consistently loaded onto this focused area of the body, the tissues become starved, putting you at higher risk of labral tears, tendinitis, and bursiti

Stuck sitting at your desk all day?

What Can I Do To Reduce Or Prevent Hip Pain After Sitting?

The first line of defense to prevent the pain from sitting is an appropriate ergonomic setup of your workspace. Sitting with feet adequately aligned, pelvis aligned, and spine straight should reduce hip pain from sitting. Avoid crossing your legs, sitting “crooked,” or leaning to one side when seated.

Would A Standing Desk Help My Hip Pain From Sitting?

Standing desks can positively influence your posture and hip pain, and they are becoming increasingly popular and more accessible than ever to set up.

Vary your position by shifting your stance and placing one foot on a small stool or a wobble board for a few minutes and then alternating to the other side. If standing, avoid static postures whenever possible- you don’t want to stand in one position all day, either!

Does Arthritis Cause Stiff Hips When Sitting?

While osteoarthritis causes stiffness, the sensation is different from stiffness caused by tight muscles. A sore hip from arthritis typically has more stiffness or pain in the morning.  One of the best things with arthritis- if you’re stiff- is to add gentle stretching or to walk to warm up the joints to your routine.

How Can I Stretch My Stiff Hips At My Desk?

If you’re stuck at your desk all day, seated hip stretches can help relieve stiffness in the hip flexors and tight hamstrings.  

Hip Flexor Stretch – Seated

  • Sit upright in a stable chair.
  • Positioned to one side of the chair, drop and extend your leg back to the rear, being thoughtful of your knee position.
  • Grip the chair or another sturdy object for balance- this is a good exercise to do at the desk.
  • Gently roll your pelvis forward to feel a stretch in the front of your hip.

 

Hamstring Stretch – Seated

  • Sit upright in your chair.
  • Straighten one leg at a time out in front of your body.
  • Lean forward, hinging at the hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
  • Keep your knee straight during the stretch. Do not arch your back.
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What Other Stretches Can Help My Stiff Hips?

If you’re able to take a few minutes, these stretches are alternatives to stretching your hip flexors and hamstrings while seated.

Hip Flexor Stretch – Standing

  • In a standing position, place one leg in front of you.
  • The leg you are stretching will be positioned behind you. Place your hands on your hips.
  • Keep your back straight and upright, but neutral. Squeeze your buttock (glutes) muscles and slowly shift your weight forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your hip.
  • Your hips and shoulders should face forward. Do not arch your back. Use a stable object for support if needed.
 

Hamstring Stretch – Standing

  • Stand in an upright position. Place a stable chair or use a step in front of your body.
  • Lift one leg until your heel is resting on the chair, and very slightly bend your knee. Use support if needed for balance.
  • Bending at the hips, lean your trunk forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your upper leg.
  • Keep your back straight during the stretch. Don’t arch.
 

Bridges – Lying Down

  • Lie on your back with the knees bent and your feet resting flat on the floor in front of you about shoulder width apart.
  • Lift your trunk up through your pelvis as you exhale, and slowly exhale while lowering back down. Repeat.
  • Maintain a neutral spine- don’t arch, and keep your upper back in contact with the floor throughout the exercise.
 

**Remember to check with your medical provider before beginning new exercises.  Keep your back in the correct position with these hip exercises, as noted for each exercise.

Physical Therapy For Treating Hip Pain After Sitting

The hip joints are responsible for bearing most of the weight of the body. They can be susceptible to becoming irritated and inflamed. If you have hip pain that makes it difficult to do daily activities like sitting at a computer while working, exercising, and movement are great ways to alleviate painful symptoms. The following physical therapy exercises customized by a physical therapist near you can help you find the relief you need to get back to your routine:

  • Stretches:  A physical therapist near you will work with you to adapt quick stretches and movements to include in your daily routine to ease stiffness and pain in the hips from sitting.  
  • Strengthening exercises:  With an individualized series of strengthening exercises created by an expert physical therapist, you will work to support your hip joints, improving blood flow while stabilizing and strengthening the muscles of the hips and pelvis, thereby relieving painful symptoms.

Movement is the key to reducing hip pain after sitting.  

Design your environment so that you have to move more purposely -place the printer so that you are forced to walk to it, move your cell phone onto a surface across the room from your desk, etc. Keep your muscles loose and limber by taking standing and movement breaks frequently- get up and stretch at least every 30 minutes during the workday- try a hamstring or hip flexor stretch. 5 to 10 minutes of walking here and there will help enormously.

A physical therapist near you can work with you on the proper techniques to best reduce your pain and recapture your quality of life.  If you have pain upon waking up in the morning or discomfort progresses through the evening, it’s a good time to contact a medical provider.

Did these tips help bring you even 10% relief? If so, you would greatly benefit from a FREE, 1-on-1 assessment of your individual body so you can avoid pain and stiffness after sitting.

At Healthy Consumer Physical Therapy, our therapists near you encourage patients to listen to their bodies. Pain is designed to alert you when something is wrong before it becomes a chronic problem, and we advocate seeking help early on. We can discuss concerns, set goals, develop an individual, comprehensive plan, and work on executing for long-term improvement. In addition, patients are given instruction on ways to incorporate additional exercises and stretches at home to improve strength, stability, and range of motion.

Chris S
AUTHOR

Dr. Chris Sovey

Healthy Consumer PT

"We Help Adults 40+ Living With Pain, Stiffness, Or Loose Joints Get Healthy, Age Stronger, And Get Back To The Activities They Love, Even If Past Treatments Have Failed"

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