I’ll never forget the day I went to a physical therapist for intense low back pain — because he told me two things that changed my life. One: My low back pain was actually hip pain. Two: It stemmed from that fact that one of my legs is longer than the other. The news shocked me. What a strange thing. However, the therapist also told me that this is more common than most people realize.
It’s true; Research published in 2018 found that 40 to 70 percent of people have uneven legs. What’s more, uneven legs are more common among those who broke one of their legs in childhood. While the difference in leg length is usually less than two-centimeters, it’s enough to cause back, hip, ankle, and knee pain.
(To be clear: Only a professional can determine whether your pain is coming from your lower back or your hips, and whether it’s caused by uneven legs. But if you already know that you have uneven legs, it’s possible that your back or hips could be the source of your pain.)
Unfortunately for me, my work requires sitting at a desk for long periods, which makes my pain worse. This is likely caused by poor posture and improper seating — two reasons that I’ve started working at a standing desk whenever I can. However, I still feel the aching pain from time to time, so I did what anyone does when a health issue arises: I turned to the internet.
Resetting Your Hips
The internet told me that my uneven legs were likely causing misaligned hips. So, hip mobility exercises to “reset my hips,” strengthen them, and stretch them would help relieve pain. And so far, it’s worked. The first exercise I tried was this hip realignment technique from Dr. Michael Rowe, chiropractor at SpineCare.
Note: This exercise does not replace a medical professional, who will be able to give you a proper diagnosis. If you’ve been diagnosed with scoliosis, had hip, back, or knee surgery, or suffered from a serious hip condition, do not attempt this exercise without consulting your doctor first.
To perform this exercise, you’ll need a soft surface beneath you and a sturdy pole, such as a broom sweep. How to:
- Lie on your back with feet on floor and knees pointing towards ceiling.
- Lift right leg off floor. Slide pole behind right knee. (The left side of the pole should rest on top of your left thigh.)
- Raise left foot off ground while pulling left knee to chest and pushing right knee out. (This creates tension on the pole.) Hold five to 10 seconds. Release, and repeat five times.
- Repeat steps two and three on opposite side.
When you’ve completed 10 repetitions, complete this finishing move:
- Lying on your back, lift both feet off floor until legs are at 90 degree angle. to floor.
- Put your fists together, and place them between your legs at knee height. Squeeze five to 10 seconds. Relax, repeat five times.
Does it work?
Why would this sequence alleviate pain? “It creates an isometric exercise in the pelvis and hips,” Dr. Rowe explains in the video. An isometric exercise is any type of static hold, keeping muscles contracted. While it’s not exactly clear how this exercise realigns the hip, we do know that it releases tension, reduces muscle stiffness, and improves mobility.
When I first tried this hip reset routine, I found that it was easy to do and gave me quick relief. I now use it anytime my hip pain starts to flare up. (Thanks, Dr. Rowe!) Additionally, I’ve started doing regular hip stretches (sitting butterfly, hip flexor stretches, and happy baby pose) to supplement my routine and mitigate pain.
Feeling good and looking for more advanced exercises to relieve hip pain? Check out this five-minute hip mobility routine from YouTuber Studio Jibby.