I’m going to make a bold statement to kick things off – “Sitting is not good for you!”
But, deep down we all know this, right? In fact, a sedentary lifestyle can reduce your time on this planet, as well as increasing the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Sorry to be so gloomy, but it’s true.
As most of us sit for a large part of our day, perhaps we should look at the way we sit. It’s often reported that tribal people suffer with less chronic diseases than those of us who live in an industrialised society. The Hadza tribe in Tanzania is a good example; they are known to squat for up to 10 hours a day rather than sitting for lengthy periods as many of us do. Therefore, maybe we should all be trying to incorporate squatting into our daily routine.
Hip pain on squatting
As an osteopath at the Lloyd’s Wellbeing Centre, I see lots of people who experience pain whilst squatting. This pain can be in the back, the knees, or the hips. In this article I will focus on hip pain and some of the possible causes.
Performing lots of squats can cause some pain simply due to muscle soreness. However, if you experience hip pain during the squat then there may be something more serious wrong, which could need attention from someone like myself, or a physiotherapist. At the very least there may be tension in the ligaments and muscles around your hips, or some kind of muscular imbalance. Alternatively, you could be experiencing one of the following conditions:
Any exercise involving hip movement could highlight hip impingement. This is characterised by a ‘pinching’ pain, which is often worse when squatting. Hip impingement is also known as femeroacetabular impingement (FAI), and occurs when the ball and socket (of the hip joint) do not fit together properly. This results in friction leading to pain, stiffness in the joint, and a clicking sensation.
Stretching can help, in particular stretches aimed at the following muscles:
- Piriformis (a deep hip muscle)
- Psoas (main hip flexor)
For suitable stretches targeting the above muscles, a Google search will offer endless advice and links to YouTube videos showing suitable stretches.
PLEASE NOTE: This condition would need to be assessed and diagnosed by a qualified health professional, such as an osteopath, physiotherapist, or orthopaedic specialist. If conventional treatment fails to help, then referral for surgery may be necessary.
If the muscles around the hips (especially the hip flexors as mentioned above) are overly tight, then you may experience pain during a squat. Tight hip flexors can contribute to poor posture and lower back pain. Tightness in these muscles can also reduce activation of your gluteal muscles (Gluteus maximus) and therefore you will almost certainly not be maximising the benefits of this type of exercise with this problem.
Performing ‘lunge’ type stretches for the hip flexors will prepare your flexors well for squats, allowing the focus of the squatting exercise to be on strengthening your thigh muscles and gluteal muscles.
Hip pain during squats may be due to the hip joints themselves becoming misaligned. This causes pain due to the misaligned ball and socket hip joint moving during the exercise. This often results from prolonged periods of sitting at a desk or driving. These sedentary positions result in shortening of the hip flexor muscles and consequently alter the mechanics of the hip joint, ultimately resulting in hip joint misalignment.
Such muscle imbalances and joint misalignment can be addressed with changes to your daily activities, and lots of stretching. Ensure you take regular breaks from sitting during the day to stretch.
It is also important that you move your hips regularly in planes other than flexion and extension (forwards and backwards). This can be achieved by incorporating hip rotation, etc.
How to squat property
So, how do you squat properly? Squatting as an exercise requires no special equipment, and is one of the easiest exercises you can perform. However, easy does NOT mean ineffective. This exercise is helpful in many ways if performed correctly. Squatting is a great way to strengthen the muscles of your legs and core, and will contribute to better balance, mobility, and of course posture. But can you do squats wrongly? The simple answer is yes!
Here are 6 simple points to help you get the most from your squat:
- Begin with feet approximately shoulder width apart
- Alter you feet position as you wish, but try to point your toes slightly outwards to begin with
- Keeping your back nice and straight, engage your core muscles and start to squat
- Try to keep your knees over your feet, and the same time keep your back and upper body straight
- Always try and keep your weight ‘in your heels’
- Only squat to a depth where your heels do not raise, and the spine stays in a neutral position.
Raise up and then repeat…
Why does squatting offer such health benefits?
Well, for a start squatting uses lots of muscles – gluteal, hamstrings, quadriceps, and gastrocnemius muscles. If you add weight to your squat, you will engage the muscles of your upper body also (to help stabilize your body) and so squats become a whole body exercise.
How many of you reading this can stand up from a full deep squat without using your hands? A study conducted in 2014 suggested that people aged 51 to 80, who can perform this task, were less likely to die within six years compared with people who could not perform this task unaided.
How the Lloyd’s Wellbeing Centre can help
It may be necessary to assess and accurately diagnose the cause of your hip pain in order to get the correct advice regarding exercises and stretches (or specialist referral if necessary).
The team of osteopaths and physiotherapists at the Lloyd’s Wellbeing Centre are available to assess, diagnose any problem your might have with your hips or hip pain, as well as all other musculoskeletal problems.