Exercise Benefits for Hip Osteoarthritis

Get more information about exercise plans for hip OA to help lessen hip pain and improve function with regular physical activity.

If you are among the millions of Americans with hip or knee osteoarthritis (OA), you may be interested in easing your pain and delaying or avoiding a visit to the operating room. An exercise plan for hip OA is a great place to start. More than 300,000 hip replacements are performed each year based on 2010 data. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, the numbers of hip surgeries are expected to rise over time and people will be getting them at younger ages. By improving your muscle strength you may be able to help delay this need for surgery. 

Goals and Outcomes of Hip OA Exercise
A key goal of a hip exercise program is to strengthen the muscles that support your joints. The deep stabilizing muscles of the hip can absorb shock and protect the joint from painful and harmful movements. So performing exercises that work the pelvis and buttocks can help improve your strength, flexibility and pain.

A 2017 study of Finnish women with hip OA found that after a 12-week exercise program, pain in 13 women declined 30%. One measure of hip strength improved by 20% and one measure of hip range of motion improved by 30%. Their joint function and health-related quality of life improved slightly.  

A 2016 study of 210 people with hip OA found that those who participated in a 12-week exercise program had less pain and more mobility than the placebo or no-treatment groups.

Types of Exercise
Getting physical activity is an important part of managing osteoarthritis. But if you aren’t currently active, it’s important to start an exercise routine as soon as you start to have pain. A variety of land and water exercises can improve your hip muscles and OA pain, including strengthening, aerobic and flexibility activities. A physical therapist can develop a specific program of hip strengthening and flexibility exercises to help get your pain under control.

Overall, it’s important to get moving and maintain the activities you enjoy in daily life for as long as possible. Even everyday movements – getting out of a chair, getting dressed, walking out to the car and leaving the house – use your muscles and keep you active. When you’re sitting for long periods, stand up and take a few steps every 20 minutes or so. 

Can Exercise Help Late-Stage Hip OA?
If you have late-stage hip OA and your doctor has already said you need a total hip replacement, recent studies show that doing hip-specific exercises in preparation won’t do you much good. Authors of a 2015 review of the literature on the subject concluded, “pre-habilitation has no significant postoperative benefits in function, quality of life [or] pain in patients who have had knee or hip [replacement] for osteoarthritis.”

That doesn’t mean you should give up and lay down until your surgery, people with end-stage hip disease are still encouraged to be as active as possible, “A big predictor of adverse events after surgery is your mobility before surgery. If you go into surgery weak and deconditioned, it’s very well established outcomes are not good.  Even if exercise is not going to help you with hip pain, it’s still better to go into surgery as healthy as possible, ” says Daniel K. White, PT, ScD, MSc, assistant professor, department of physical therapy, University of Delaware in Newark.  


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