Lateral Hip Pain: 6 Exercises to Help Relieve It

Lateral Hip Pain: 6 Exercises to Help Relieve It

Are you tired of dealing with constant lateral hip pain? Whether it’s caused by muscle imbalances, overuse, or even arthritis, this discomfort can challenge even the simplest tasks. Walking, climbing stairs, and even sleeping on the affected side can become unbearable.

But don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll reveal the top 5 exercises to help alleviate lateral hip pain so you can get back to living your best life. Plus, we’ll explore some common causes and other treatment tips to ensure you have all the information you need to find relief.

What is Lateral Hip Pain?

Lateral hip pain is pain that occurs on the outside of the hip. It can be caused by several things, including muscle imbalances, hip bursitis, tendonitis, or arthritis. Lateral hip pain can cause pain with stairs, single-leg stance, or lying on the involved side.

This is different from anterior hip pain or pain in the front of the hip and shoots down to the groin region. This type of pain is most associated with disorders of the joint such as a labral tear or advanced hip arthritis.

Lateral hip pain is also different from posterior hip pain associated with Sciatica or a referral from the spine. This pain tends to radiate into the back of the hip and down the back of the leg and is a more fleeting type of pain.

Causes of Lateral Hip Pain

Several things can cause lateral hip pain. Muscle imbalances, bursitis, glute tendonitis, or arthritis are some of the most common causes.

Hip Muscle imbalances

When muscles around the hip are tight, they can pull on the joint and lead to pain. The most common muscle imbalance leading to lateral hip pain is an overactive hip flexor muscle group pulling against a weak glute medius and the other glute muscles. This can happen due to a lack of exercise or being too sedentary and commonly occurs with other joint issues.

The muscle imbalances can then cause the hip to move abnormally within the hip socket, and the tight muscles can compress nerves causing pain and discomfort.

Hip Bursitis

Bursitis is the inflammation of a small sac of fluid that helps muscles move over bones. The most common bursa to become irritated in the hip region is the Greater Trochanteric Bursa. This bursa sits on the lateral side of the hip and can become irritated with overuse and repetitive activities or a direct trauma such as a fall on the hip. Greater Trochanteric Bursitis can make sleeping and putting pressure on the outside of the hip uncomfortable.–conditions/hip-bursitis/

Glute Tendonitis

Tendinitis is the inflammation and degradation of a tendon. The gluteus medius and minimus tendons attach these muscles to the greater trochantor, the bone on the lateral side of the hip. These tendons can become irritated from doing too little activity before doing too much activity.

This is a fancy way of saying tendonitis is a condition of overuse with prior weakness.

The good news is that the best way to treat tendonitis is to strengthen the tendon and be active once the initial irritation calms down.

Hip Arthritis

Arthritis is the thinning and breakdown of cartilage in a joint. The most common form of arthritis affecting the lateral hip region is osteoarthritis. This happens with the aging process and the natural loss of cartilage over time. Some people lose cartilage faster due to genetics, body weight, physical activity or lack thereof, and other factors.

Once the cartilage wears thin, the joint becomes bone-on-bone which can cause pain in the hip. The typical presentation of hip arthritis is pain in the groin region, but it can also present in the lateral and posterior hip.

6 of the Best Exercises for Lateral Hip Pain

No matter the cause of the hip pain, it’s important to try and address it with exercises and stretches. It’s optimal if the symptoms can be managed conservatively, and you can avoid relying on potentially harmful medications and side effects of steroid injections.

In addition, by improving the range of motion and strength at a joint, you can not only fix an injury, but you can set yourself up to prevent it from coming back again in the future.

It’s important to note that it takes 6 weeks to notice a difference after starting an exercise program.

Stick with these exercises for a minimum of 6 weeks before moving on to other options.

Here 6 exercises that address lateral hip pain.

Figure 4 Stretch

The Figure-4 stretch is a classic stretch that you have probably seen a million times or have performed a million times, yet it’s still a good one to include.

You can perform this stretch lying on your back or sitting in a chair. Start with your knees bent and cross the affected leg’s ankle over your other thigh. From here, push the knee of the affected leg away from you, and you’ll feel a stretch in the backside of the hip. Perform at least 3 times and hold for 30 seconds or more each time.

Figure 4 stretch

Glute Medius Cross Body Stretch

This is the second stretch of the group and targets your glute medius and minimus. To perform this stretch, start by lying on your back. Bring one leg across your body as far as you can and grab the knee with the opposite hand. Pull the knee as far across the body as possible, feeling a nice comfortable stretch. Perform for at least 3 repetitions and hold for 30 seconds or longer.

Glute Stretch

Side-Lying Clamshells

Side-lying clamshells are an excellent exercise to help improve the function of your glute medius and deep hip rotators.

To perform side-lying clamshell, start by lying on the unaffected side with your hips and knees bent. We prefer putting a resistance band around the legs just above the knees. Slowly raise your top knee towards the ceiling while keeping the other leg on the ground. Try not to rotate the entire body when raising the leg. Control the motion as you return your leg back to the starting position. You should feel this working in the side of the hip. Perform 10-12 repetitions and at least 2-3 sets.

Clamshell with band for hip pain

Single-Leg Bridge

The single-leg bridge is an excellent exercise for the posterior hip and lateral hamstring. This exercise’s key is maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement.

To perform the single-leg bridge, start by lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Next, raise one leg into the air while keeping the other leg bent with the foot flat on the ground. Drive through the heel of the grounded leg and raise your hips off the ground until your thighs align. You should feel this exercise working in the hamstrings and buttocks. Perform 10-12 repetitions for 2-3 sets per side.

Single leg bridge

Side steps with a Resistance Band

The lateral shuffle with a resistance band is a great exercise to improve the function of your lateral hip muscles, including your glute medius.

Start by placing a resistance band around both ankles. Next, assume an athletic stance with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Take small lateral steps to the right from here while maintaining good body control. Return to the starting position by lateral shuffling to the left. You should feel this working in the side of your hips. Perform 10-12 repetitions for 2-3 sets.

Sidesteps with resistance band

Eccentric Lateral Step Down

The eccentric lateral step-down is one of the best exercises to improve glute strength. When looking at EMG studies, this exercise has some of the highest levels of muscle activation in the Glute Medius and Minimus.

To perform the lateral step down, start by standing on an elevated surface, such as the side of a step with the affected leg. Pull your toes up on your other foot and slowly lower yourself on the affected leg until the other foot’s heel can barely tap the ground. Return back to the starting position. The key to this exercise is to ensure that your hips stay back and that you go slow when lowering your foot down to the floor.

lateral step down

Other Treatment Options for Lateral Hip Pain

Most lateral hip pain is associated with weakness and should improve as your strength improves. This can be frustrating because strength is not something that you can get back in one or two days. It takes weeks to regain adequate strength to reduce pain levels, which tests the patience of everyone in pain.

In addition to strengthening and stretching, there are other treatment options that can help speed up pain reduction and allow for quicker strength gains. We’ll also cover a few treatments that won’t provide many effects, and you can save time and money on other things.

Foam Rolling the Glutes

Foam rolling the glutes can help decrease tightness in the muscles, which also helps decrease pain. The key with foam rolling is to find the tender spots and either roll on top until they loosen up or hold on to that spot for 30-60 seconds.

Once the tenderness subsides, you can roll around to different areas in a search and destroy the tight areas plan. One common area that gets tight is where the glute connects to the Greater Trochantor on the outside of the hip.

If you don’t have a foam roller, you can use a tennis or lacrosse ball to massage these muscles instead. Just place the ball on the tender spot and either roll around or sit on top of it until the muscle loosens up.

Dry Needling

Dry Needling uses thin filament needles to go deep into the muscles and cause the communication between the nerve and the muscle to “reset.” This is a different procedure altogether than traditional Chinese acupuncture.

When the nerve “resets,” it causes a local twitch response, and helps reduce muscle tightness and decreases the pain signal from the surrounding nerves. In recent research studies, dry needling was found to be non-inferior to steroid injections but with fewer side effects.

To get treated with dry needling, you’ll need to find a physical therapist that has been trained and certified. We also recommend seeking care from those trained in deeper treatment techniques such as those from Evidence in Motion.

Massage Therapy

There’s nothing quite like a good massage. Massage therapy can help reduce lateral hip pain by decreasing muscle tightness and helping improve blood circulation to the area. Even though massage therapy feels good and helps with tension, it’s only a part of the puzzle.

It must be combined with stretching and strengthening exercises to prevent muscle tightness from returning.

The main downside to massage therapy is that it is expensive. If it hasn’t helped improve your lateral hip pain within a few treatment sessions, then it’s time to move on to the foam roller or massage ball and really focus on those exercises.

Cortisone Injections

If you’ve read our other articles on cortisone injections, then you know that we are not the biggest fans. That being said, they can help some people with lateral hip pain in the short term.

The steroid injection will decrease the inflammation in the bursa, which helps decrease pain in the short term. Like many other treatments listed above, performing the necessary strengthening exercises after the cortisone injection is key to avoid the pain from coming back.

Treatments to Avoid for Hip Pain

In the world of musculoskeletal pain, it’s worth trying almost any conservative treatment before pursuing more invasive treatments such as injections or even surgery. However, there are some treatments that just aren’t backed by evidence for the time, the money required, or the benefits received. This list is not exhaustive but can at least steer you in a different direction.


Ultrasound therapy is a treatment that has been around for quite some time. The problem is that research studies have not shown it to be any more effective than a placebo for lateral hip pain or other forms of musculoskeletal pain.

The theory behind ultrasound therapy is that sound waves help decrease inflammation and promote healing by increasing blood flow to the area and stimulating the healing process through vibration in the cell.

There are no risks associated with ultrasound therapy but also no evidence that it works. For these reasons, we recommend avoiding this treatment option.

Interferential Current Therapy

Interferential current therapy is another modality that has been around for a long time but has not been shown to be any more effective than a placebo.

Interferential current therapy uses low-frequency electrical stimulation to help reduce pain. The theory is that electrical stimulation helps block the pain signals from reaching the brain.

There are no risks associated with interferential current therapy, but also no evidence that it works in the long term beyond the time you are using the therapy. For these reasons, we recommend avoiding this treatment option or spending the money to buy a new unit.

Low-Level Laser Therapy

Low-level laser therapy is a newer modality that uses low-level lasers to help reduce pain. The theory is that the lasers help to stimulate the healing process by increasing blood flow and jump-starting the Mitochondria to begin protein synthesis.

There is limited evidence that low-level laser therapy can help with lateral hip pain, and it’s not often covered by insurance. This means you’ll likely have to pay cash for a treatment that doesn’t have the medical evidence to back it. For these reasons, we recommend avoiding this treatment option.


Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine used for centuries to help with pain relief. The theory behind acupuncture is that it helps to release Endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain to help reduce pain. Acupuncture also aims to open up the flow of energy through the body or “Chi.”

There is limited evidence that acupuncture may help with lateral hip pain, but the research studies are limited and of poor quality. It is not a cure-all and, again, you would have to pay cash for it as insurance does not cover it.

The hip structures are too deep to be directly treated with acupuncture.


In conclusion, while lateral hip pain is a common area for pain, it typically responds well to conservative treatment. There are specific exercises that work better than others to address the source of pain.

In addition to performing the exercises multiple times a week, staying active by riding a bike, walking, or swimming is important to prevent muscular atrophy.

There are also many treatments that are not worth pursuing due to the limited research and lack of success with lateral hip pain. You can devote your time and resources to other treatment options for improvement.

Let us know in the comments if the exercises work well for your lateral hip pain.