Moving Well, Part 3: We’re Joined at the Hip

Orthopedic Injuries, Pain, Sports

We’ve worked our way up from the foot and ankle to the knee, and now we will explore the hip as a source of potential pain or injury. Like the foot, dysfunction in the hip can contribute to pain anywhere in the lower extremities or low back.  Many of us tend to favor one side and stand with the hip cocked out to the side. Over time, this can contribute to the inability to properly carry our weight through the spine, hip and lower legs. This eventually leads  to pain, especially after an increase in activity such as starting a new exercise program.

If you stand on one leg, the hip should stay in–right under your back and straight above your knee. If this is happening, you will feel some weight or pressure at the ball of the big toe. If there is dysfunction, when standing on one leg the hip will slightly kick out to the side. This shifts your weight slightly towards the outside of all the joints of the leg.  There will be a significant decrease in the amount of weight or pressure felt at the ball of the big toe, and most of the weight will be felt along the outside of the foot. It is easiest to assess yourself by comparing the amount of pressure at the great toe during a single leg stance on each side: if one side feels different there may be a dysfunction.

One of the best ways to correct for this is with an exercise called a shift correction. The shift correction gets the hip accustomed to properly bearing weight. This exercise can help with pain in the low back, hip, knee, ankle or foot.  To perform a shift correction, stand with unaffected side next to the wall and place your forearm on the wall. Your feet should be close together. With the other hand, push the effected hip in as far as you can keeping the knees straight. Try to get the hips to touch the wall if possible and then come back to the starting position–do not hold it.  In order for the exercise to be effective it should be done often throughout the day. I often prescribe setting an alarm and doing ten shift corrections once every hour.