You may have been born with two left feet, but when your hip pain acts up, you can relieve the ache the same way dancers do. When members of the Washington Ballet have hip pain, they use a home remedy called the RICE method — this stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation — to relieve the pain and get back to their art form.
Amy Humphrey, DPT, a physical therapist at Body Dynamics, Inc. in Arlington, Va., and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association, works with the Washington Ballet and advises dancers to use home remedies such as RICE when hip pain sidelines them.
Home Remedies for Hip Pain: RICE
Anyone can use the RICE method, whether your goal is to slip on a pair of pointe shoes or a pair of sneakers for a daily walk. Here’s what to do.
- Rest. The first thing Humphrey tells her patients is to rest, which means avoiding the activities that cause the pain. “It might mean runners stop running for a week and then start back up at a reduced pace and see how it goes,” Humphrey says. She recommends resting for at least 24 to 48 hours.
- Ice. Applying an ice pack to the area where you’re feeling the pain can reduce inflammation and make your hip feel better. If hip pain is very intense, Humphrey recommends using ice four or five times a day for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. An ice pack can be anything from a plastic baggie filled with ice to a bag of frozen vegetables (peas are great). Wrap a towel around the ice pack to avoid irritating your skin.
- Compression. Humphrey uses compression by wrapping a thick Ace bandage around the pelvis and hip.
- Elevation. Elevating a painful joint can reduce swelling and helprelieve pain. It’s easier to elevate your ankle or knee than your hip, but it’s still possible. Humphrey recommends reclining with your feet up to try to get the benefits in your hip.
When you get back to your old activity level, how do you know if you’re working too hard? Any sharp or shooting pain is not a good sign, adds Humphrey. Also, when hip pain comes during exercise or another activity and lingers for hours or days later, don’t keep going. It’s normal to have some muscle soreness a day after exercising, but the soreness should go away as you move throughout the day.
Home Remedies for Hip Pain: Stretching
Stretching and exercising can also help, as long as you’re not experiencing too much pain when you do them. The Arthritis Foundation recommends the following stretch after walking:
Once you’ve cooled down by walking at a slow pace for five minutes, stand with your right side facing a wall. Put your right hand against the wall and slightly bend your right elbow. Then pick up your left foot and cross it over your right foot. As you keep your right leg straight and your left leg slightly bent, slowly move your right hip toward the wall and hold the stretch without bouncing. You should feel the stretch in your right outer hip and thigh. To repeat the stretch on the opposite side, turn so that your left side is facing the wall. Cross your right foot over the left and lean in toward the wall with your left hip, being sure to keep your left leg straight and your right leg slightly bent.
Home Remedies for Hip Pain: Exercise
Exercise increases the range of motion in your joint and strengthens the muscles around your hip, but the type of exercise you choose is very important when you have hip pain. To protect your hip joint, these exercisesare the preferred choices, according to the Arthritis Foundation:
- Walking in a shallow pool
- Walking on a flat surface, whether it’s outside or on a treadmill
- Swimming (being sure to kick gently)
- Taking a bike ride or riding a stationary bike
- Doing yoga
- Strengthening your upper body
Home Remedies for Hip Pain: What to Avoid
It’s best to skip these activities when you have hip pain:
- Exercises that involve moving your leg away from your body, which may include some yoga poses and Pilates exercises
- Doing squats with heavy weights (although squatting using a wall for support or while holding a bar without weights across your shoulders is okay)
When hip pain interferes with your daily life, it’s good to know that there are things you can do to get relief at home.