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Exercises to improve hip flexibility if you have osteoarthritis

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Someone recently asked me on Facebook for some exercises that can help with his hip flexibility. He has osteoarthritis in his hip and as a result is struggling to reach his feet to put his shoes and socks on. This is actually an extremely common complaint for my patients who have OA in their hips.

In this article:

  • Why osteoarthritis can make hips stiff

  • How to get rid of the stiffness

  • Time your exercises right

  • Video: Exercises to improve hip flexibility in OA hips

Why osteoarthritis can make hips stiff

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affect joints in several ways. Most people will develop some of the changes that we see with OA as they get older but the severity of these changes can vary a lot from person to person. Several factors (including things like genetics, diet, activity and previous injury) can play a role.

Some of the reasons why joints become stiff when you have OA include:

  • OA can cause the capsule that surrounds the joint to thicken,

  • It can reduce the free space inside the joint,

  • It can cause little bony growths which can limit joint range if they impinge when you move the joint,

  • Or it may just be that you’ve stopped moving your joint properly because it’s painful to do so.

How to get rid of the stiffness

Movement. The problem with osteoarthritis is that it can cause a vicious cycle: Your joint hurts so you stop moving it, but now because you've stopped moving it, it becomes stiff and hurts more when you do move it.

Joints don’t have arteries that go into them. They rely fully on movement to get nutrients in and out and to stay healthy. When you have osteoarthritis, regular movement becomes even more important for your joint health, but it has to be at the right level so that it doesn’t aggravate your pain.

You can also keep the joint capsule more flexible by doing regular movements and exercises.

Consulting a physio online via video call holds many benefits. Follow this link to find out how it works.

Time your exercises right

Joints that have OA in them, can sometimes be very acutely painful and have inflammation in them. It is NOT the time to do strong stretches or heavy exercise when they are actively inflamed – you will make them feel a lot worse.

Other times the joints can just feel stiff and a bit niggly – this is when you can do stretches and strength training. Strength training is extremely important for anyone who has OA, because the stronger your muscles are, the better they can protect and decrease the strain on your joints.

If you’re finding that your exercises are making your joints feel worse or you don’t know if what you’re doing is enough, speak to a physiotherapist. They are really good at advising on exercise plans for people with osteoarthritis.

Video: Exercises to improve hip flexibility in OA hips

To get back to the group member’s question – what exercises can you do to improve hip flexibility when you have OA? I demonstrate some in this video. Jump in at 04:06 if you don’t want to watch the full thing.

Let me know if you have any questions. Need more help with an injury? You’re welcome to consult me online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

Best wishes


About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.


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