When you hear “hip, hip” are you itching to respond with “hurray” like most of us? There’s nothing strange to it. After all, this chant is meant to elicit a response from at least one person in the crowd.
Our body is no different. Like a well-coordinated machine, our body tries to function flawlessly despite minimal impairments. For instance, if you have a weak and stiff hip, the other parts of your body — from your lower back, legs, knees to your ankles — will compensate for it, allowing you to move smoothly.
If this happens too often, pain sets in to tell you there’s something wrong. This pain could be a symptom of hip tendonitis. In this article, we’ll show you how to be hip when it comes to treating this hip problem.
What is hip tendonitis?
Tendons are thick cords that attach muscles to the bones and are present in the different parts of our body. In the hip, tendons attach the iliopsoas muscle, responsible for flexing your hip, to the upper thigh.
When it becomes inflamed, irritated or breaks down due to overuse or injury, a condition called hip flexor tendonitis, or tendonitis of the hip, occurs. It is medically known as iliacus tendonitis or iliopsoas tendonitis, referring to the muscles they’re attached to. Muscle weakness and tightness are contributors to tendonitis, as they are repeatedly affected by these impairments.
Tendonitis (also known as tendinitis) should not be confused with tendinosis, which refers to tissue microtears in and around the tendon.
Symptoms of hip tendonitis
Pain, tenderness and mild swelling near your hip joint are the early signs of hip tendonitis. These symptoms are similar to hip bursitis — an inflammation of the bursa or fluid-filled sacs positioned between bones and tissues to reduce friction.
Hip flexor strain can also show these symptoms, so it becomes quite tricky to determine by yourself if you have hip bursitis or tendonitis or hip flexor strain.
To distinguish tendonitis from hip flexor strain, lift your knee towards your chest. If the pain becomes unbearable as you’re doing this, you might have hip flexor strain and not hip tendonitis.
Tenderness, hip stiffness, clicking in the hip, throbbing pain while walking, running or kicking, and swelling are the most common complaints of those suffering from hip tendonitis.
Causes of hip tendonitis
Athletes, dancers and gymnasts are prone to having this hip condition because repetitive motions that put stress on the muscles and tendons are the main causative factors of hip tendonitis. So too is the sudden, forceful impact injuries due to an accident.
Individuals with snapping hip syndrome are also more vulnerable to tendonitis, being that the tendon near the hip joint could easily wear down from too much friction between the femoral head and socket.
Hip tendonitis home treatments
Most hip tendonitis symptoms can be treated at home using the following methods:
RICE method (rest, ice, compression and elevation)
Rest – Avoiding activities that put further stress on your injury is the most important part of recovery. If you don’t stop straining the tissues, they could lose the chance to completely recover.
However, instead of immobilization, relative rest or continuing to move while leaving the injured part to heal is recommended.
Do: Light exercises such as walking or swimming. For hip problems, try performing stretching exercises.
Don’t: Overdo it. Doing too much, too soon can aggravate your condition and delay healing.
Ice (and heat) – Swelling can result in loss of motion. For fresh injuries, cold therapy works better than heat. Applying a hip ice pack for up to 20 minutes numbs the pain and keeps fluids away by constricting the blood vessels.
After two or three days, you can apply a warm pack applied on the injury site to hasten recovery. Warm packs help to dilate your blood vessels which encourages circulation. Heat likewise relaxes stiff muscles, and reduces the pain caused by muscle tightness, too.
Do: Place a cloth in between your skin and the pack to avoid ice burn. Apply on and off repeatedly, once every hour or every four to six hours.
Don’t: Leave the cold pack on your skin for more than 20 minutes.
Compression – Using an elastic bandage provides compression to support relief by facilitating oxygen-rich blood to flow to the affected area while keeping unwanted fluids away.
Do: Use this hip ice pack to scale your cooling experience. This highly-recommended ice pack holds cold for extended periods of time and comes with adjustable straps to hug your hip and provide exceptional cold compression.
Don’t: Wrap the elastic bandage too tight as this could worsen the swelling.
Elevation – Keeping your injured hip at a level above your heart will further keep fluids way from the injury site.
Do: Prop your hip on stacked pillows.
Don’t: Skimp on elevation time. Like icing, you’ll need approximately 15-20 minutes to maximise its healing effect.
Stretches and exercises
Wouldn’t it be counterintuitive to perform the exercises that could have caused tendonitis in the first place? Not really, according to experts, who, in fact, recommend the RICE method and stretching, as well as light exercises, in rehabilitation programs for various hip injuries.
To weather through the daily muscle stresses, increasing one’s flexibility and strength are key. These mild activities can help ease your hip tendonitis pain:
Kneeling hip flexor stretch
- Kneel on your left knee. Bend your right knee and place your right foot flat on the floor.
- Place both hands on your left thigh.
- Press your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to stretch your hip flexor even more.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
- Switch to the other leg and repeat.
Figure four stretch
- Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee, keeping your right foot flexed.
- Reach your right hand through your legs and interlace your fingers just below the crease of your left knee.
- Pull your left knee toward your chest. Pause when you feel a stretch in your right glute and hip.
- Hold for 30 seconds then release slowly.
- Repeat on your left side.
Hip flexion stretch
- Lie flat on your back on the floor with your leg straight out.
- Hold your right knee and gently take it toward your chest.
- Pull it as close to your chest as possible without feeling uncomfortable.
- Release, then return to starting position.
- Switch to the left leg.
Side-lying hip abduction stretch
- Lie on your side with the top leg being the one you’re trying to strengthen.
- Bend your lower leg. Keep your top leg straight with your foot flexed.
- Raise your top leg up and slightly back and then down.
- Hold for three seconds, then lower.
- Do two sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.
Seated glute stretch
- Sit on the floor and extend your legs out in front of you.
- While keeping your back straight, lift your left leg and place your left ankle on your right knee.
- Slowly lean forward as far as you can go to deepen the stretch.
- Hold for 20 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
Straight leg raise
- Lie flat on your back.
- Bend your left leg and keep your right leg straight. Tighten your right leg so that your knee goes down towards the floor
- Lift your right leg up just until your thighs meet, and then lower it slowly back down.
- Switch to the other leg.
- Lie on your side with your knees slightly bent.
- Gently lift your leg up, but do not lift it fully.
- Hold for 10-30 seconds, and then relax.
- Repeat on the other side.
Do: Perform exercises properly.
Don’t: Push your body too hard. When your hips start to hurt, stop and take some rest to avoid aggravating your condition.
Over-the-counter painkillers such as naproxen sodium, ibuprofen and aspirin may relieve discomfort associated with hip tendonitis. It is not advisable to rely on these completely, though, as most have side effects and are not for long-term use.
If these home treatment methods fail to address your hip pain, consult a medical specialist.
Hip tendonitis is an overuse injury and can be managed at home with simple remedies. Stretches work best after initial RICE treatment, because over time they can strengthen your muscles and prevent hip problems from recurring.
When hip tendonitis bothers you, what home treatments do you swear by? Share your thoughts with us here.