Hip Pain and Injury in Yoga
By Niki Vetten
Hips are vital in all body movements because the body’s centre of gravity is located in the hip area, about 4 finger-widths below the navel or belly-button. Healthy hips are also the key to a pain-free lower back and knees.
Flexibility in the hips is determined by strength and overstretching the hips in an effort to make them flexible will instead make the hips weak and dysfunctional. Muscle imbalances in the hips also lead to inflexibility in the legs – it’s common for people with hip problems on one side to have one flexible leg and one that is inflexible.
When hips become painful in yoga practice, it is usually time to consult a Biokineticist, because hip muscle imbalances need specific corrective exercises, based on an assessment of your hip-function. If hips are left untreated, pain often spreads into the lower back and the neck and shoulder area. It is very easy to develop hip-muscle imbalances with yoga, as a result of:
- Hamstring injury or previous hip-muscle injury
- Overstretching the hip muscles
- Poor movement habits such as moving with the pelvis tilted forward and arching the back or hinging from the hips in forward-bending
- Asana sequences that focus repetitively on particular areas of the body.
Strength differences between the left and right hip occurs naturally because most of us have a dominant hand that we use. Hand movements are stabilised by the shoulders, which are in turn stabilised by the diagonally opposite hip. Therefore, people who use their right hand usually have a stronger left hip. Left-handed people often have more balanced bodies because many of the objects that they use in their day-to-day lives are designed for right-handed users, so they are forced to use both hands. Hip injury and dysfunction tends to occur in the weaker hip and so right-handed yogis tend to have problems with their right hip, because it is naturally their weaker hip.
When you have a strength or structural difference between the left and right hips, the pelvis tends to tilt to one side – it is higher on the weaker side, this will affect the body’s alignment and is one cause of lower-back and neck pain. This is referred to as lateral pelvic tilt.
Although asana practice is usually equal on both sides of the body, it can be helpful to pay more attention to the weaker side, because practising asanas equally will not correct any existing left-right imbalance, but will perpetuate it instead.
I will look at other the other factors which contribute to hip problems in separate posts.
Reading sources: Kendall, McCreary, Provance, 1993, Muscles, Testing and Function
Author: Niki Vetten
Visit Niki’s Website: Yoga Anatomy for the Perplexed
Here are some of the other articles posted here by Nikki Vetten:
- Lower Back Pain and Posture (Pelvic Tilt) and how Yoga affects Pelvic Tilt March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Posture is not simply a matter of standing up straight, like your mother told you to; posture is created by the Hamstrings and Hip Flexor (mainly the Iliopsoas) muscles. If the Hamstrings are stronger than the Psoas, the pelvis tilts backwards and if the Psoas is stronger than the Hamstrings, the pelvis tilts ...
- Practising Through Pain and Injury in Yoga March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Many athletes and many athletic yogis who experience pain believe that they should keep right on with what they are doing, and hope that the pain will eventually disappear. This is very short-sighted, especially if pain is not associated with a specific injury. Pain without a specific injury is often a sign of muscle ...
- Lower Back Pain and Alignment March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Another cause of lower back pain is found in the alignment of the left and right sides of the body, some bodies are structurally asymmetrical: one leg is shorter than the other, or the pelvic halves are different sizes, people can be born that way, or their structure can be altered by bone ...
- Neck Pain from the Hips March 12, 2013 By Niki Vetten Posture affects our necks negatively when there is anterior or posterior pelvic tilt because the spinal curves are altered and the head is carried in a forward position. The muscle at the front of the neck, the Sternocleidomastoideus (SCM) shortens and the shoulder girdle rounds and shifts forward, exaggerating the curvature of the ...
- Pain at the Kneecap March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Knee pain that occurs around the kneecap is usually called Patellofemoral pain and can be caused by tightness in the Rectus Femoris muscle or an imbalance between the Quadricep muscles that stabilise the patella. One way that this occurs is through weakness of the Gluteus Medius in the hip. The Tensor Fascia Latae ...