Hip Exercises for an Injury? You Might Be Strengthening Your Pain.

Here's something I haven't told many of my clients: I have two labral tears in my right hip as a result of years of compensation from injuries. Labral tears are more common than many of us realize and, as my orthopedist admitted to me, there's not a lot of science about what to do about them. There is also a hesitancy about surgery when it comes to labral tears. I'm curious about that, because the doctors caring for Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees seemed pretty clear that his torn labrum was getting in the way of smooth, pain-free running and batting. They whisked him off pretty quickly for surgery to repair the labral tear in his hip, and he was back on the ball field two months later, his form as smooth as ever.

What happens when you have an injury?

Accidents and injuries, like spraining an ankle, slipping on ice, or a sudden fall, can cause muscles to involuntarily contract to avoid pain and protect from further injury. This is called the Trauma Reflex. The photo on the right is a typical Trauma Reflex.  This kind of posture is responsible for such conditions as sciatica, piriformis syndrome, leg length discrepancy, scoliosis and plantar fasciitis. The client in this photo broke her left ankle and had to compensate for months using the right side of her body to protect the left side. Notice how the waist muscles on the left side of her body are tighter than the right, causing the left hip to be slightly higher up than the right. This causes a slight tilt to her right.

Compensating muscles = tight, painful joints.

Muscles attach to bones. Muscles pull on bones. Chronically contracted muscles compress joints, making them painful and tight. Chronically and habitually tight muscles around joints can cause a lack of joint mobility. Over time, too much compression on joints due to habitually contracted muscles can cause serious structural damage, such as labral tears or worn out hip sockets. Even sitting too much at a computer or in a car can create this kind of muscle tension.

From my clinical (and unfortunate personal) experience, I have found this to be a cause of many cases of chronic hip pain.  But here's the thing:

Release the underlying pattern of tight muscles, and muscle pain "magically" disappears.

Many medical professionals advocate strengthening to reverse hip pain. This approach doesn't make sense, and here's why:

If you have a muscular pattern of compensation and you strengthen the muscles of that compensatory pattern, you're merely making that dysfunctional pattern even stronger. You will literally "strengthen your pain." If muscles are contracted and causing pain, they need to be relaxed and released, symmetry has to be restored, and then strength training to maintain that muscular balance will be beneficial.

So what about labral tears and what to do about hip injuries? More in my next post... but in the meantime, if you have hip pain, do this: stand facing a full length mirror. Close your eyes and sense how you're standing. Do what comes naturally. Now open your eyes and notice:

  1. Are you standing with your weight centered over both feet, or are you tilting slightly to one side?
  2. Are your shoulders level, or is one shoulder slightly lower than the other?
  3. Put your hands at your waist, on top of your hip bones and see whether or not one hip is sitting higher up than the other (look back at the client photo in this post).
  4. Now feel the waist muscles on both sides. Is one side of your waist tighter than the other? If so, is it the same side as your sore hip?

If you are "out of kilter," then the core muscles that attach into your hips are working harder on one side than the other. This can cause hip pain. The good news is that it can be reversed....

Begin to learn the methods and movements of Hanna Somatics in order to relieve hip pain, increase mobility, balance and coordination! Check out my instructional DVDs at the Essential Somatics® store.