Hips Don't Lie: Why Lockdown Is Giving You Joint Pain

Physios have seen a rise in under 40s reporting hip complaints. Here's why.

Shakira was onto something: our hips don’t lie – and if you’re experiencing sore or uncomfortable tightness in your hips right now, you’re definitely not alone.

We often assume hip pain is an issue for older people, but it can affect all ages, says Michelle Njagi, senior physiotherapist at Bupa Health Clinics. Lockdown is a particular factor in the growing number of those suffering under the age of 40.

“Particularly over the last year, our health clinics have seen a rise in younger patients experiencing hip pain, due to taking up running or home workouts,” she tells HuffPost UK.

“Similarly, we’re seeing more people experiencing joint pain as a result of working from home. A sudden change in lifestyle can really affect how the body is able to deal with exercise and posture changes, as your body needs time to adapt.”

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Poor posture, particularly sitting slouched over, is a common cause of hip pain – and sadly our work from home environments don’t help. Many of us sit at dining room tables that are the wrong height, or work from bed for hours on end.

In fact, research from Bupa suggests 11 million Brits have experienced pain in some form as a result of their home working environment.

“[Hip pain] is usually brought on when someone doesn’t have suitable support for their back, as this puts more pressure on the hips,” explains Njagi.

“Sitting on an uneven surface or sitting crossing your legs may also be a factor. And poor sleep posture, such as sleeping on your side for too long, may cause it, too.”

Exercise is another major risk factor for hip pain among young people. It’s possible to be doing too much, or too little of it.

“Regular physical activity can help strengthen muscles, improve balance, increase mobility and make your hip joints more stable,” says Njagi. “As such, a lack of exercise can contribute to hip pain.

“Working from home, we’re stuck at our desks for over eight hours a day. We’ve removed the commute and, if the weather’s bad, it isn’t always easy to get out for a walk. This amount of inactivity can cause an imbalance and deconditioning of the hip muscles.”

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On the flip side, it’s possible to overdo it. Njagi has seen this with people who’ve taken up running during lockdown, but have failed to warm up properly or haven’t eased themselves in after a period without exercise.

“This can cause the muscles to become overloaded and contribute to muscle, tendon and joint pain,” she says.

So, how can you fix it? In many cases, exercise can be used to reduce hip pain, but it’s important to start slow and build up over time. It can be as simple as starting with daily walks, says Njagi, as this will strengthen your whole body and support your hips.

If you’re in pain but interested in trying more strenuous exercise, she recommends speaking to a physio or your doctor first, who may be able to make suitable suggestions based on your type of hip pain.

3 exercises to combat hip pain your physio may recommend

Hip flexion
”To do this, hold onto a work surface and march on the spot, bringing your knees up towards your chest alternately,” says Njag. “Don’t raise your thigh above a 90-degree angle.”

Hip extension
”Move your leg backwards, keeping your knee straight,” says Njag. “Clench the muscles in your bottom tightly and hold for five seconds. Don’t lean forwards. Hold onto a chair or work surface for support.”

Hip abduction
”For hip abduction, lift your leg sideways, being careful not to rotate the leg outwards,” says Njag. “Hold for five seconds and bring it back slowly, keeping your body straight throughout.”

In most cases, simple lifestyle changes can help your hips to feel more limber. But if pain persists, seek advice from a doctor or physio, as pain in the hips may be a sign of problems elsewhere in the body, including the lower back or pelvis.

The NHS advises seeking medical help straight away if your hip pain is accompanied with a temperature and feeling unwell, if the leg is deformed or badly bruised or if you’re unable to put any weight on the leg.