Do your hips feel tight? Can you sit in a chair and place an ankle on the opposite knee without using your hand to help? If you can get your foot on top of your knee, does your knee lay flat? Have you noticed that walking has become a little more difficult? If any of these things are affecting you, you may be suffering from tight hips. Hundreds of thousands of Americans each year have their hips replaced, either partial or full replacement. The trend is that hip replacements will continue to increase exponentially. What is going on and how can you avoid a hip replacement?
Hips are not just wearing out because you are getting older. If that were true, we could just schedule everyone at a certain age to replace their hips and skip all the suffering. The truth is, hips are wearing out mainly due to poor mechanics of moving, inflammation, and trauma. In the past, people did not live as long and died before the damage could show up. Again, this is not an age thing. People today are heavier than ever which places a tremendous amount of pressure on the hip joint. Our lifestyles are more sedentary than our ancestors, so muscles are tightening around the joint, increasing the compression on the joint. Our diets are not as good as our ancestors’ diets because we tend to eat a highly inflammatory diet. Finally, trauma is something we mostly cannot avoid, like car accidents or sports injuries.
Weight and Diet and Tight Hips
Let’s begin with weight and diet. Americans are getting heavier and heavier but our bones are only designed to carry just so much weight. I remember when I sold trucks many years ago, the warranty on the suspension of the truck stated the maximum amount of weight the truck was designed to carry before it would damage the axles. We work the same way. Our bones can only handle a certain amount of weight based on our height and bone structure.
Our diets contribute to our weight issues and the inflammation in our bodies. In most cases the inflammation is more dangerous than the actual fat on the body. Unfortunately, the more fat there is on your body, the more inflammation you have. Inflammation affects the oxygen levels in our cells, specifically with regard to the mitochondria, which are like batteries in each cell. Every cell in the body has a lifespan and once it weakens and dies it must be cleaned out so new cells can come in to heal the body. The higher inflammation stops that cleaning out from happening which can lead to more serious diseases of the body. This can weaken the strength of the bones in the hip joint.
Sedentary Lifestyles and Tight Hips
Sedentary lifestyles affect the length and strength of muscles. As you age, over 40, your muscle mass begins to deteriorate, which is called sarcopenia. It is a natural process if we don’t maintain an exercise regimen. Everyone should be doing thirty minutes of strength exercise at least three times per week and walking for at least twenty minutes each day. The walking needs to be faster than just walking along with your pet as your pet may stop along the way to sniff and do other things. This start and stop doesn’t allow your heart rate to increase enough to help you
Sitting behind a desk at work, or in a chair at home, for hours at a time will cause the muscles of your thighs to shorten. There are three sets of muscles in the thigh that can lead to hip and back pain. The quads on the front of the thigh, and the inner thighs, when tight, will prevent your hip from going through its full range of motion. This can lead to lower back pain when standing and neck pain as your head will lean forward. The hamstrings on the back side of the thigh, when tight, can reduce the range of your leg moving forward, again reducing your range of motion. When the hamstrings are tight you can have hip pain and back pain when sitting.
Reducing the range of motion allows the hip joint to dry out because movement causes the body to secrete synovial fluid, a WD40 type substance, in the joint to maintain lubrication. Lack of lubrication can lead to arthritis and bone deterioration. As the joint dries out and the muscles tighten, the bones are pushed closer together causing loss of cartilage and bone damage, or bone on bone.
The Long Haul
Our ancestors used to live only ‘til age fifty or sixty, therefore they never really had any hip problems at the level we have today. Besides, most of our ancestors had jobs that required much more manual labor than jobs require today. Add to that the poor diet we eat for many more years than the years they ate a better diet, and you have a much bigger problem. However, most of these cases, if you get to them early enough, can be reversed, but it will take some work from you to get there.
How Do We Improve Our Hips?
Like I said earlier, movement is the key. Walk at least twenty minutes each day, even if you need to start by walking around inside your house. You want to walk briskly enough to raise your heart rate. If you have a heart condition, check with your cardiologist before you start this. As you get stronger, walk a little farther and soon you will be walking several miles. Most people will tell me they are walking when they walk their dog. It is true you are walking, but since it is stop and start for the dog or you stop to visit with friends, the focus is not there to increase your heart rate. As your health improves you can add a little running into the mix, just to raise the heart rate.
Strength training is good for your hips. At home, place a large softball, like a beach ball, between your back and the wall. Begin to bend your knees like you are going into a seated position and come down ‘til your thighs are ninety degrees to your lower legs and then stand back up while maintaining the ball between your back and wall. To build your inner thighs, in a seated position, place the ball between your knees and squeeze your knees for a count of five, then repeat ten times for three sets. If this is too difficult, begin by just standing up from a chair without your hands. This will build strength in your thighs.
If you are going to a gym, then I suggest using the leg press, leg lift, and hamstring machines to help your hips. You can use the inner and outer thigh machines too. You can also use stretchy resistance bands at the gym if they have them. The idea here is to build stamina and strength so you can move more.
The last step is to stretch your hips and thighs as well as massage them to keep them soft. You can massage your hips with a tennis ball by placing it between your hips and the wall. Look for sore spots and when you find one, stay there and maintain the pressure as you breathe out allowing the muscle to relax. Massaging your thighs can be done anytime you are sitting. Using your hand, press just hard enough to feel any sore spots. When you find one, press hard enough to feel, breathe out and allow the muscle to relax. Do this all over your thighs. If you do these massage techniques daily, you will find you won’t feel as sore, and your movement will improve. I have added two stretches for the hip that will help you maintain your flexibility and lubrication. Do these two stretches daily to maintain better movement to save your hips.
Finally, eating a less inflammatory diet will help with your energy level and movement. Reducing foods like grains, starches, and sweets to less than twenty percent of your diet will reduce the inflammation in your body that can cause joint failure, heart disease, and many other metabolic diseases. Grains, starches, and sweets all convert to glucose or sugar when you consume them, so they all have a similar effect on the body.
The bottom line here is, you must maintain your body to prevent injuries and chronic diseases from happening to you. Health care practitioners can be your guides to show you what to do, but ultimately it is up to the decisions you make every day that make a huge difference.
Tips to Improve your Stretching
All you need is a yoga strap and a tennis ball for the tennis ball massage. Give yourself about 15 minutes twice a day and you should see better results within 2 weeks. This, though, is a lifetime event. Think of your pet. they stretch every day and several times a day. Stretch when they stretch. Follow the videos below and free your knees. In my opinion, the calf stretch is the most important stretch a human can do. It will solve many issues of the body.
Gluteus Maximus and Piriformis stretches
Stretching is more about feeling the muscles letting go than forcing them to stretch. If you are forcing the muscle, you could be doing strength training, not stretching. Make sure you are feeling the intended muscle stretching. If not, the form could be wrong. Holding for 5 seconds allows the brain to release the muscle before it senses any danger. Repeating the stretches 10 times allows the brain to learn it is safe for the muscle to move that way.
Don’t forget the Tennis Ball Massage!
Softening your hips and back is easy when you use the tennis ball. Just lean against the wall and apply enough pressure to feel the painful area. The temptation is to press harder but resist it. Instead, breathe out and allow the muscle to soften under the ball. Then move to another spot and repeat. Continue doing this until most of the painful spots are gone. Check out previous newsletters to see the video.
Tennis Ball Massage
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About The Muscle Repair Shop
Drawing upon his personal experience as a former competitive athlete turned wheelchair, obese, and chronic pain sufferer, Muscle Repair Shop Founder Butch Phelps decided to take his health into his own hands when at the age of 36 he was told he might not make it to his 40th birthday. Applying balanced nutrition advice from his doctor along with a sound exercise program, he went from 315 lbs. to 180 lbs. Motivated by his experience, he then acquired degrees in advanced therapeutic massage and aging sciences to help people eliminate chronic pain. This included applying his expertise in how people age, including the effects of dementia, anatomy, psychology, and the day-to-day struggles living as an older person to his practice and development of The Muscle Repair Shop’s one-of-a-kind Stretch n’ Release Technique.
Available through in-office and virtual coaching treatment sessions, this unique combination of stretching and breath work teaches the brain to release the emotional side of muscle tension and pain allows clients to find lasting relief and healing from stiffness, aches, injuries, and chronic pain. The at-home exercises come with customized instructional videos and virtual or in-office support, allowing clients to enjoy and experience life and sports as they did before limitations slowed or curtailed activities.