Your hips are involved in a lot of your movement: walking, running, standing, sitting, climbing stairs and ladders, and even gardening. Gardening, in general, requires great mobility and you use your hips more often than you might think. Your hips are engaged when lifting and laying your gardening equipment, getting down to the ground to get in about those weeds, and bending over to tend to your plants.
Hip pain is something of which people often complain, and it has a huge impact on movement.
The most common issue relating to hip pain is caused by sitting in chairs for prolonged periods of time. As young children, we are put in a chair and told to sit there all day, all through school.
This bad habit continues into adulthood. The routine for so many people is to get out of bed, sit to eat breakfast, sit to commute to work, sit at work, sit to commute home and when you get home, sit to eat and watch TV. That’s a lot of stillness that will not make the body happy.
In the health and well-being world, sitting is the equivalent to smoking in terms of causing harm to your body! And we all do it without thinking about it. I know fitness coaches who have removed all of the chairs in their house, including sofas and dining chairs, and have even chopped the legs from their dining tables to accommodate sitting on the floor to eat. Don’t worry, I am not suggesting you do that, unless of course you want to.
Tight hips can cause problems in other areas of your body. The body is super smart and will look for the path of least resistance to move, especially if there is tension or pain somewhere. If there is an issue with your hips, your body will try to move elsewhere through the other components of the pelvic structure, your spine and legs. This means that you can pretty much bet that over time you will develop pains in the knees, feet, back, neck, or shoulders.
Often when we have pain showing up in one part of the body, it is another part of the body that is actually causing the issue. When you are limited in one area, your body will compensate to be able to move without pain in another. This is really useful to keep us mobile but if we are not aware, and do not do anything to solve the issue, this compensated movement will become a new ‘normal’ and end up causing more issues in the long run.
What Can You Do?
As gardeners, we are hopefully more mobile in getting out there, digging, weeding, lifting, twisting, turning, leaning, reaching, getting down close to the ground and using those knees to get down – not bending from the back which can cause back issues.
The first job is to notice how you move. Without awareness we do not know how we are moving and what we are doing with our bodies, and we often do not realise that we are compensating for lack of movement in a joint.
When you are weeding, are you down with your backside close to the ground? You might be on one knee, which is okay for a while, but chances are that you will start to get a gardener’s knee and it can become painful when the joint gets inflamed. Ideally you do not want to hold any one position for too long; it is best to keep the body moving, shifting your weight around so that the joints do not stiffen up. Movement oils the joints and helps keep you supple.
So what do you do if you already have stiff or tight hips?
Get them moving! Always start out slowly and always move intentionally. Be curious and aware of any parts that feel tight or sticky, or if it feels like something is catching or causing pain.
Notice your breath as you are moving. When you find yourself holding or catching your breath, that is an indication that something is wrong within the body. My advice always is to notice pain and discomfort, honour it, and do not push through it as you can potentially cause more pain. Use your breath to ease and relax.
Move within a range where there is no pain. This might mean smaller movements or moving your body into another position – if you cannot manage that job in the garden comfortably today, leave it. When there is discomfort, is there a movement that helps to ease things out? Be aware if it feels like it is making the pain worse. This seems like obvious advice, but you would be surprised at the number of people that need to hear it – stop doing anything that makes pain feel worse.
Your hip joint is a ball and socket joint, so there is a big range of motion available within it. You should be able to do a full 360-degree movement at a whole range of angles (if you have had a hip replacement your range and angles will be slightly different). Even if you are not in any pain or discomfort it is good to check in with your joints and get them moving every single day – prevention is always better than cure.
To help you oil up your hip joint and get it moving so that you can keep gardening without any discomfort, check out this video: