Previous Hip Injury and Yoga Practice
By Niki Vetten
Many people turn to yoga as a way of healing hip injuries that they acquired elsewhere. Some people find that their injuries improve with mild stretching and strengthening, but others find that their symptoms get much worse.
Hip injuries that are caused by traumatic events like car accidents or bad falls have a profound effect on overall physical alignment because of the fact that our centre of gravity is located in the hips. When the Sacroiliac joints become misaligned, body alignment shifts to compensate and can be the cause pain of anywhere from the head to the feet. Broken pelvic bones can deform the hips and change alignment permanently. Surgery in the hip area or damage to muscle structures after serious trauma can also alter the function of muscles at the hip.
As we recover from either a bone or a soft-tissue injury, the muscles in the hips tend to alter their natural usage patterns, resulting in muscle imbalances. Correct usage habits need to be retrained or they will persist and this is why a strenuous yoga practice can make symptoms worse – compensatory muscle usage habits are strengthened, not corrected. It is often very frustrating to deal with this kind of pain, because every doctor that a sufferer consults has a different opinion and treatment method.
Soft-tissue injuries can improve with the correct remedial exercise although with old injuries the body’s natural alignment may have changed after the injury and will need to be assessed and monitored. Body alignment can be very difficult to correct and requires perseverance and patience, or sometimes simple acceptance of limitation.
In yoga practice, excessive stretching can be counter-productive. Even if hips feel tight, intense hip-opening asanas should be avoided if they cause pain. Constant pain and tightness indicates that muscles are working incorrectly – it is not a sign that they need more stretching. Rehabilitation specialists find that balancing on one leg is helpful to retrain hip stabiliser muscles to work correctly. Exercising on unstable surfaces like wobble-boards or a Bosu ball stimulates the hip stabilisers neurologically. Standing balancing asanas like Utthita Hasta Padangustasana variations and bending the knee to squat without holding the big toe strengthens the hips. Practising standing balancing asanas on an unstable surface is a very effective way to correct muscle imbalances. More work needs to be done on the weak or dysfunctional hip, rather than just doing asanas once on each side. Lifting up onto the toes in Vrksasana can also be very helpful, if you take care to practise with good form and alignment. Good alignment habits for the hips will be looked at in my next post.
Reading sources: De Franca, 1996, Pelvic Locomotor Dysfunction Cook, 2003, Athletic Body in Balance
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: Some Yoga-Related Causes March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten The causes of lower back pain are varied and complex. Physiotherapy texts state that in most cases it is impossible to pinpoint the exact body tissue that causes the pain and because humans have an upright posture, it is virtually guaranteed that everyone will have an episode of lower back pain in their ...
- Reciprocal Inhibition and the Hips March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Reciprocal Inhibition is a process that the body uses to create movements. All movement is controlled by opposing sets of muscles, called Agonists or prime movers, and Antagonists that create the opposing force which returns the part being moved back to its original position. Movement is also aided by other surrounding muscles, called ...
- Understanding and Managing Sacroiliac Pain in Yoga Practice March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten It is common for yogis to develop painful sacroiliac joints, with serious consequences: dysfunction at the sacroiliac joint inhibits the hip muscles and starts a vicious cycle of hip instability and body misalignment. Painful sacroiliac joints must be treated and stabilised to avoid chronic pain and it is not advisable to continue with ...
- Wrist Pain from Vinyasa Yoga March 10, 2013 By Niki Vetten Vinyasa, arm balances and handstands often leave yoga practitioners complaining of wrist pain, especially at the Ulnar side of the hand, that is, the base of the palm furthest from the thumb. To combat this, the focus is on various hand positions, pushing down with the base of the thumb, rising up onto ...
- How Hinging From the Hips Creates Weak Gluteal Muscles March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Yoga practice usually starts with some form of Surya Namaskara and most sun salutations include moving from Samasthitih or Tadasasna to Uttanasana and back upright many times. These movements are often made by keeping the back straight and folding forwards at the hips, with the knees locked and rising back to vertical in ...