Have you ever sunk down into a squat, only to find your hip seizing up with pain? Whether you’re squatting in an exercise class or to pick up a box from the floor, you should not experience pain in your hips.
Read on to learn more about the potential causes of hip pain while squatting and how you can address them.
One of the most important things you can do is try to determine what’s causing your hip pain. A doctor may ask you to describe your symptoms and when they occur before examining you to see if one of these conditions is the cause:
Impingement, or femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), is a condition that occurs when the bones that form your hip joint don’t fit neatly together. If you have impingement, you’ll likely experience some pain and stiffness in the groin area, or possibly a catching or clicking sensation in your inner hip. You may also have trouble sitting for long periods of time.
Hip flexor strain
If you pull or strain your hip flexor muscles, which connect to your hip joint, it can cause pain in your hips. You might recognize this condition as a sharp pain in your hip or upper groin area, although it may also show up as weakness or tenderness.
Osteoarthritis of the hip develops when the cartilage in the joint begins to wear away. It can cause pain and stiffness in your hip area, as well as in your groin, buttocks, and thighs. The pain usually gets worse when you’re doing weight-bearing activity.
If your hip muscles are limited in their mobility, you may feel pain and tightness in your hip and groin area.
Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae, which are small jelly-like sacs on the inside of the hip. It can result in a sharp pain that occurs when you stand up from a seated position, or when you’ve been lying on the hip. The pain can start in your hip and radiate down your thigh.
Osteonecrosis, also called avascular necrosis, occurs when the blood supply to the top of your thigh bone gets disrupted. Over time, this condition can cause the top of the femur and the cartilage surrounding it to break down and collapse.
Many people with this condition experience a swelling in the bone marrow called edema that’s very painful. Many people also develop osteoarthritis in their hips.
You’re probably more likely to associate limited ankle mobility with ankle and knee pain. But it can also lead to hip pain, too.
Bad posture or core stability
When your core muscles (abdomen and lower back) are weak, it can throw your posture off. This can put strain on your hips. Your hip muscles may tighten up as a result, causing soreness and pain.
A doctor may suggest a comprehensive examination to assess the areas that are painful, tender, or swollen. You can describe the sensations that you’ve been experiencing, including when the pain tends to occur and how long it lasts.
You may also need to undergo some additional tests, such as:
Treatment will depend on your specific diagnosis, but in general, a doctor will start by recommending that you start with rest. Change up your daily routine so you can give your aching hip a break. Avoid doing the activities, including squatting, that make the pain flare up.
Other common treatments include:
- taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to help manage the pain
- supportive brace
Physical therapy may help as well. A physical therapist can help you learn what activities to avoid that might make your hip pain worse. Some exercises may be able to help you improve your hip’s range of motion or strengthen the muscles in your hip area to support the joint.
Some cases of hip pain may need surgery. For example, if you have hip bursitis and none of the non-surgical treatments have worked, you might be a candidate for surgery to remove the inflamed bursae.
Similarly, some people with impingement may discuss the possibility of undergoing arthroscopic surgery with a doctor if other treatments aren’t effective.
A 2009 review found that surgery helps reduce the pain and improve hip function. The review also suggested that information from a long-term follow up would be helpful.
Similarly, a 2010 review also found widespread pain relief benefits from impingement surgery. However, the authors noted that about one-third of the patients eventually need to undergo a total hip replacement.
There are also surgical treatments for osteonecrosis, including:
- bone grafts
- bone reshaping
- joint replacement
- core decompression, where a piece of hip bone is removed
Doctors and physical therapists often recommend certain exercises for people who have osteoarthritis in their hips.
It may take a while before you can tell if these exercises are helping to reduce any of the hip pain you experience while squatting because it takes time to build up those muscles. You may want to talk to a doctor before beginning any new exercises to make sure it’s safe for you to try them.
This exercise can help you strengthen the muscles that support your hip joint.
- Stand up straight and hold on to a wall or chair for balance.
- Shift your weight onto one leg.
- Slowly raise your other leg, with your knee bent, up toward the level of your hip.
- Briefly hold the bent knee in position and then lower it slowly.
- Return to your original position and switch legs.
- Repeat on each leg 5 to 10 times.
You can also try another version of this exercise by lying down and raising your bent knee toward your chest.
Side-lying leg lift
This exercise will strengthen your hip abductor muscles. If you have a yoga mat, unroll it on the ground to give yourself some cushioning first.
- Lie on your side, with your legs stacked on top of each other.
- Use one arm to support your head.
- Place your other hand on the floor in front of you for balance.
- Slowly and gently, lift your top leg until you feel a gentle resistance in your hip.
- Hold the lift for several seconds.
- Gently lower your leg.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times.
- Switch legs.
For this exercise, you can also use resistance bands to increase the tension if you’re ready for the additional challenge and it’s not causing you any pain.
- Stand upright with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Hold onto a chair in front of you with both hands.
- Keep one leg straight while you gently lift the other backward. Don’t bend your knee.
- Hold your lifted leg in position for several seconds. Squeeze your buttocks together while you’re holding your leg up.
- Slowly lower your leg until you’re standing on both feet again.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times per leg.
This can help strengthen your gluteus maximus and your hamstrings. Roll out your mat on the floor, because you’ll need to lie down again.
- Lie flat on your back.
- Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor with your arms at your side.
- Slowly lift your pelvis toward the ceiling, keeping your shoulders and upper back on the floor.
- Hold the position while you count to 5.
- Lower your pelvis and back until you’re lying flat on the floor again.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times.
If you experience hip pain while squatting on an ongoing basis that doesn’t seem to go away, or if your hip pain seems to be getting worse, schedule an appointment to see a doctor.
A number of different conditions can cause pain in your hips while you’re squatting. It’s important to not dismiss the pain. Talk to a doctor about your symptoms and when the pain occurs. An examination may uncover the cause of your pain.