Stretches for RA Hip Pain

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on April 01, 2022

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory disease in which your immune system attacks the lining of your joints and damages the cartilage that cushions your joints. The attack leaves joints swollen, painful, and stiff. Stretching is one way to relieve the stiffness and improve range of motion in your joints.

RA often affects smaller joints like the ones in your hands and feet, but it also can damage the hip joint. Arthritis in the hip causes pain in the hips, thighs, or groin. It also limits movement in the hip joint.

Medication is the main treatment for RA. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) relieve pain and swelling in the joints. Disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate and the biologics slow joint damage.

Exercise is another important part of RA treatment. It strengthens the muscles that surround and support your hip joint.

Why Do You Need to Stretch?

Stretching is important because it reduces stiffness and improves range-of-motion and flexibility in the hip joint. It should be part of your exercise program for RA.

When your joints are stiff and sore in the morning, exercise might be the last thing you want to do. But gentle stretches can help to get your joints moving.

You can do your stretching routine on its own, or stretch to warm up your joints before aerobic or strengthening exercises. Programs like yoga and tai chi incorporate stretches into their movements.

How Much Stretching Do I Need?

Try to stretch at least four to five days each week. Make stretches part of your regular exercise routine.

Aim for five to 10 reps of each exercise. Hold each stretch for 10 to 15 seconds.

You can stretch anywhere, including in your home and outside. Stretching in a warm pool is helpful for relieving pain and improving flexibility.

If you can't do all of your stretching at one time, break it into a few shorter sessions during the day. Stretching before bed offers the added perk of helping you sleep.

Step-by-Step Stretch Guide

These eight simple exercises gently stretch your hip joint.

1. Bridge

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Slowly lift your pelvis up off the floor. Hold it there for 10 to 15 seconds.
  3. Gently lower your pelvis back to the floor.
  4. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

2. Leg Raise

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Make a pillow out of your bent arms and place your forehead down on your hands.
  3. Tighten your stomach and buttocks muscles as you slowly lift your left leg a few inches off the floor.
  4. Hold the leg in the air for 10 to 15 seconds. Lower it to the floor.
  5. Do the same movement with the right leg.
  6. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each side.

3. Hip Rotation

  1. Sit with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Gently push your knees out to the side, pressing the soles of your feet together.
  3. Stop when you feel a stretch in your hips.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds.
  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

4. Knee-Ups

  1. Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Hold on to a chair or wall with one hand.
  2. Lift your left knee toward your chest. Only lift it as high as is comfortable.
  3. Hold the knee for 10 seconds, then lower your left foot to the floor.
  4. Do the same movement with the right leg.
  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each side.
  6. If you have trouble with balance, do this exercise while lying on your back on the floor. Pull each knee into your chest and hold it there for 10 to 15 seconds.

5. Hip Extensions

  1. Stand up straight while holding on to a chair, desk, or wall in front of you.
  2. Without leaning forward, slowly lift the left leg straight back behind you, with your toe pointing toward the floor.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower the leg to the floor.
  4. Do the same movement with the right leg.
  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each side.

6. Abductions

  1. Stand up straight with your right hand resting on a chair or wall for support.
  2. Slowly lift your left leg straight out to the side.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds, then lower the leg.
  4. Switch hands and repeat the movement with the right leg.
  5. Repeat 5 to 10 times on each side.

7. Front of Thigh Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall and place the top of your foot on a chair behind you.
  2. Tighten your buttocks muscles until you feel a stretch down the front of your thigh.
  3. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

8. Hip and Calf Stretch

  1. Stand facing a wall and place your palms flat against the wall.
  2. Put your left foot forward with your foot flat on the floor and your knee bent. Keep your right leg straight behind you. Both feet should face forward.
  3. Keeping your shoulders and hips in a straight line, tighten your buttock muscles and lean your body toward the wall.
  4. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the right side.

Tips for Safe Stretching

Before you start any new exercise program, check with your doctor. You may need to adapt your movements or avoid certain stretches if you have joint damage or you've recently had surgery.

If you're not sure how to do these exercises, work with a physical therapist. They can teach you the correct form and modify exercises to your ability level.

Before you stretch, warm up for 3 to 5 minutes. You might walk in place, swim, or slowly pedal a stationary bike.

Start slowly. You might do only one or two stretches at a time at first. Hold each stretch for only 5 seconds. Gradually increase the length of time and the number of stretches as you start to feel more comfortable.

Never exercise to the point of pain. If a stretch hurts, stop what you're doing and ask your doctor for advice.

Show Sources


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Inflammatory Arthritis of the Hip," "Rheumatoid Arthritis."

American College of Rheumatology: "Exercise and Arthritis," "Rheumatoid Arthritis."

Arthritis Association: "Best Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis,"  "When Hip Pain May Mean Arthritis."

Arthritis Society: "Top 10 Arthritis Exercises."

Kaiser Permanente: "Hip arthritis – tips and exercises."

Mayo Clinic: "Rheumatoid arthritis," "Rheumatoid arthritis: Is exercise important?"

Versus Arthritis: "Exercises for the Hip."

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