I am 61. For many years I have had backache in my lumbar spine, and now I also have osteoarthritis in my left hip. I get excruciating pain on my hip and all down the outside of my leg, into my shin bone. Could you suggest some gentle exercises that would help?
While exercise cannot reverse the damage of osteoarthritis, it can help to reduce pain and discomfort. It can also have a very beneficial effect on back pain, especially if there is no obvious cause (such as a disc prolapse). Bear in mind, though, that in order to feel the benefit, you will need to do exercises regularly (3 to 4 times a week) and be patient: it may take a couple of months to really appreciate the effects.
Here are four gentle exercises. On days when your arthritic hip is very bad (swollen, in “flare up”), don’t do the exercises but try to keep your leg moving. And be aware that some people find their arthritic pain gets worse when they start a new exercise programme, before it starts to improve.
Exercise 1: pelvic tilt. Lie on your back, feet flat and knees bent. Sucking your lower stomach down into the floor, carefully curl your lower spine up as you lift your bottom just off the floor. Then reverse the movement slowly. Try to think of “peeling” your spine, one vertebra at a time, starting at the bottom, and then replacing each vertebra in the opposite order as you lower down again. Do 12 to 15 slow, controlled roll –throughs. This is a gentle spine and pelvis mobiliser which you can safely do every day. Click here for the full exericse
Exercise 2: The Clam. Lie on your side (put a pillow or other padding under your lower hip if necessary) with your knees bent in front of you and with hips, knees and feet neatly stacked. Keeping your feet glued together, squeeze your bottom and open up your top knee a little way. Hold for 5, keeping your bottom squeezed, then lower the knee back down. Repeat 10 times on each side. It is important not to let your pelvis move at all as you lift your knee – the top hip should stay still throughout. Click here for the full exericse
Exercise 3: lower stomach suck-up. Lie on your stomach, head in hands. Give a little cough to feel the lower stomach muscle contracting, so you know which one to suck up. Suck up the muscle firmly, trying to draw it up through your back. Keep pulling while you count to 10, and remember to keep breathing throughout. Rest, then repeat 5 times in all. Over the weeks, increase the length of hold gradually to 30 secs or more. Click here for the full exericse
Exercise 4: side-lying leg raise Start in the same position as for the “Oyster”. But this time lift your knee and foot so that your leg lifts up evenly a few inches. Hold for 5, then replace smoothly. Repeat 12 to 15 times on each side. Click here for the full exericse