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Self-mobilization of Hip Joint: A Step in the Right Direction

After pushing a double stroller for a 3 mile run to the park yesterday, I had a flare up of hip pain that made me doubt my ability to get my kids back home. While they were playing, a hanging ladder caught my eye and sent my manual therapy wheels spinning. I carefully slipped my leg over one of the rungs, angled my body just right, and leaned away to distract my hip. I noticed a toddler staring at me, so I politely told her, “I’m just mobilizing my hip joint, sweetie, but you can go ahead and climb now!” My relief was almost immediate, and I realized my patients need to know how to help themselves, too! We all know how to prescribe home exercises for patients regarding stretching and strengthening, but once a therapist is competent performing joint mobilizations, the need for this arthokinematic movement is often found to be essential prior to the osteokinematic movement of stretching. The hip joint in particular is affected by pathologies of the lumbar spine, the sacroiliac joint, and the pelvic floor. When the hip joint is not moving around the proper physiological axis, then the knee can be negatively impacted as well as the areas just mentioned.

Therapists need to discern whether a patient is appropriate for self-hip mobilization instruction, as a “motor moron” probably would not be a good candidate to whom you would explain how to perform mobilizations at home. When you realize a patient “gets it,” then you can suggest the techniques to that patient. Reiman and Matheson (2013) presented a paper regarding suggestions for self-mobilization of the hip joint. They demonstrate an inferior-posterior hip glide with a towel, weight, and a step with or without muscle reeducation in hip flexion; an inferior and lateral glide with hip flexion movement; a hip posterior glide with or without movement; a hip lateral glide with or without muscle reeducation; a hip anterior glide with or without muscle reeducation; and, a long axis distraction mobilization. The authors conclude the efficacy of their protocol and techniques are not completely backed up by evidence yet and recommend they be implemented as an adjunct to evidence based practice, not a primary treatment approach.

Regarding the efficacy of hip mobilization in the clinic by a skilled clinician, a study by Makofsky et al, (2007) discusses the effect of inferior hip joint mobilization on hip abductor force. This study leaves little doubt that mobilizing the hip can facilitate contraction of the gluteus medius. A 17.35% increase in hip abduction torque was noted immediately after the inferior Grade IV hip mobilization; whereas, the control group without mobilization experienced a 3.68% decrease in hip abduction torque. We generally see patients much less often than our services are needed, so being able to teach patients how to mobilize on their own to supplement our work could be extremely effective in the long run.

I have the extreme fortune of being married to a manual therapist, so I do not always have to find crafty ways to mobilize my own joints, but my recent experience was encouraging to know it is more than possible to help myself. My hip pain had caused some patellofemoral symptoms because my gluteal muscles were inhibited. Performing a self-distraction close to my hip joint helped kick in the muscles required for greater stability of my knee. I cruised home with the kids without a hitch. We should all be ready to educate our patients to take potentially embarrassing measures to help themselves as well.


Reiman, M. P., & Matheson, J. W. (2013). RESTRICTED HIP MOBILITY: CLINICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR SELF‐MOBILIZATION AND MUSCLE RE‐EDUCATION. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 8(5), 729–740.

Makofsky, H., Panicker, S., Abbruzzese, J., Aridas, C., Camp, M., Drakes, J., … Sileo, R. (2007). Immediate Effect of Grade IV Inferior Hip Joint Mobilization on Hip Abductor Torque: A Pilot Study. The Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 15(2), 103–110.

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