Q&A: Pain in the hip

Pain relief tips for when your hips are being a pain

I was asked a great question by Sara on Instragram the other day.   Sara is a young women with hip Osteoarthritis (OA) and Avascular Necrosis (AVN) who asked for pain relief tips.

The lowdown on what Sara lives with is this:  OA is the breakdown of cartilage, the protective layer at the end of bone that acts like a cushion to prevent bone on bone action.  AVN is the death of bone tissue from a lack of blood supply which can eventually lead to breakage.  This means less shock absorption at the hip joint, i.e., between the thigh bone and pelvis, and a more brittle surface at the head of an unhappy femur (thigh bone); it can also mean pain.


What to do?


Because I can’t see Sara in person to watch how her body moves (or doesn’t), and because everyone is different, I can only give general advice here.  Thats the main reason why there’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” approach to yoga therapy.  And of course I’m going to remind you to seek advice from you medical professional before starting any yoga treatment plan.   With that out of the way, let’s dive in.


Here are my 10 pain relief tips when living with chronic pain:


  1. Move.  Keep your hips mobile with range of motion moves and yoga poses.  Think quality over quantity; it’s not how much you move but how well you move that matter.  If possible, move only within your pain-free range of motion – which might not be much but it’s something!  Yoga poses are great for this because they ask the joint to move in ways it normally doesn’t, e.g., less chair sitting, more of everything else.  (See below for one of my favourite hip range of motion move.)
  2. Rest.  Practice supportive, restorative poses so you can relax at the same time while giving your joints a rest.  (See below for one of my fav restorative hip poses.)
  3. Breathwork.   Focus on your breathing while doing traditional or restorative poses for a double hit of yoga therapy.  Or do a breath awareness practice on its own.  Breathe through and ride the pain, don’t fight it; the pain will hurt a little less.
  4. Meditation.   Go one step further with a daily focused-attention meditation.  Give yourself something to focus on for 10 minutes.  Count your breath cycle or notice when your attention moves aware from what you’re focusing on.
  5. Healthy adjustments.  Are there ways to do your regular day-to-day activities that causes you less pain?  Can you use yoga props to sit or lay more comfortably?  The more you can adjust to disrupt the pain cycle the more you teach the brain that “Pain’s not ok, cut that out!”
  6. Watch your language.  The way you talk about yourself has been proven to affect how you perceive and cope with pain.  True, some days you might think your hip is a jackass but really it’s part of you and you are pretty rad!  Label your spots in a neutral way, which can be difficult I realize, and you’ll start to see them in a new light.  This is mindfulness.
  7. Emotional support.  Your emotions play a huge part in how we perceive pain.  During your lows, self-care is key.  During your highs, enjoy and appreciate the good days.
  8. Sleep, sleep, sleep.  This goes along nicely with no. 2.   Do what you need to do to get a good night’s rest.   When you’re rested your relaxation bucket is full and you’ll be better able to manage pain when it shows up.
  9. Acceptance.  The great yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar said, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be ensured and ensure what cannot be cured. ”  It’s easy for someone without chronic pain to say but ultimately, this is your reality.  You can work to accept it as part of your daily yoga practice or use precious energy fighting it.  And who wants to fight with themselves?!  Sounds like no fun to me.
  10. Take care of the rest of you too.  When we have pain we focus so much on the “bad” parts we forget about the good ones.  When we work to keep our other joints healthy, for example, we build more than strength and mobility, we build confidence.  Plus our bodies aren’t a collection of independent pieces, they’re brilliant machines made of interelated bits.  By focusing on the health of the back anbd psine, pour hips will benefit. By doing things we love, our emotional wellbeing will be increased which helps our physical bodies feel better.


Reclined Hip Rotation – Explore Active Range of Motion

Move into and out of the leg cross, keep the pelvis still as you move only at the hip.  If the hip rotation is too much, straighten the base leg (right leg in the photo) as much as needed until you can reach the knee.

Hip rotation - floor

Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose – Restorative Variation

Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose -  Restorative


Brilliant question, Sara.   Thanks for asking on behalf of countless others living through the same thing.

Here’s to happy joints,




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