“Dear, The Golfing Doc; Why are my hips always tight? It’s affecting my golf swing. How can I loosen them up? Thanks. C. Toms, Seattle, WA”.
One of the most common complaints I hear in my clinic is: “My hips are tight”. Patients ask what causes the tightness and what are some of the best exercises to loosen them up. Well, that all depends on what’s causing the problem. There may be several reasons why your hips feel tight. And based on my experience, I would place them into three main categories.
The first category would be hip tightness as a result of your actual bone structure. This could be something you are born with. This could be due to the shape of your hip socket or even your femur. Some of the changes in the boney structure could also be due to normal arthritis. All the joints in the body will experience some wear and tear with age. Since the hip joints are major weight-bearing structures, the surfaces of these bones will go through some degeneration and can get a little rough.
The second category would be hip tightness due to trauma. The mechanism of injury is usually memorable and fairly obvious. I have seen patients who have injured their hips by falling down stairs, slipping on ice, being hit by a car, or even falling from a tree. In any event, the resulting hip injury can lead to muscle tears, ligament sprains, labral or cartilage tears, and other issues. This can then lead to ongoing tightness in the hips– even after receiving treatment.
The third and final category would be hip tightness due to something you are consistently doing, but don’t realize is causing a problem. This is often an instance where you are performing a repetitive motion over and over again. The most common culprit is prolonged sitting. Whether you sit all day at work, at school, or in a bus, or car– sitting can cause a wide variety of problems. Back problems are usually the first to show up, but this is usually secondary to the tightness in the hips. So let’s take a look at what happens when you sit for a long time.
The hip flexor muscles start at the very front of the vertebrae in your lower back and run down to attach to your femur. These muscles cross the front of your hip joint. The primary action of these muscles are to flex your hip, which is basically bringing your thigh or knee towards your chest. When you sit down, your hips go into flexion, which then puts the hip flexor muscles into a shortened and contracted position. Now imagine if I asked you to clench your first tightly for one minute. When you reopen your hand, it will be stiff but since you only held it for one minute, it will loosen up back to normal. But what if you did this over and over again? Now think of your hips. Imagine sitting for hours, days, and months, year after year. Your hips will naturally get tight!
Here are some hip exercises you can perform in your office, after work, before or after playing golf, and even before bed. Foam rolling is another way to loosen up your hips. Just spend a few seconds on a two or three inch spot and then move to another area. Foam roll the front, back, and sides of your entire leg and hip area. When stretching your hip, hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat up to three times on each side. If this feels good, do it several times per day. If you feel any pain during any of these exercises, stop immediately and seek medical advice. For more golf-specific exercises, go to Shawn’s daily blog at www.shawnfarmersese.com.