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How to prevent hip pain when driving

Dr Tom Maggs
Reviewed by Dr Tom MaggsReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 6 minutes read
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Hip pain can arise from a variety of reasons, including long periods spent driving. If you are experiencing hip pain while driving, or even after your journey, this guide is for you. We have included some helpful advice on how to prevent and reduce hip pain that has been either caused or worsened by driving, covering treatment options, helpful exercises, and day-to-day advice.

Can driving cause hip pain?

Being seated for extended periods of time can be a direct factor causing hip pain. Any time you are sitting down for too long, whether at your office desk, around the dining table or even in a cinema, this can result in your hips becoming tight. Driving of course involves sitting down, which can definitely cause hip pain.

The hip flexors and muscles around the hips can tighten and weaken when you are seated for a while, which can result in compression and decreased motion in this area of your body. If your hip flexors are unable to relax and return to their natural length, this can cause hip pain.

How do I prevent hip pain when driving?

If you suffer from hip pain while driving, here are some helpful tips to prevent, or at least reduce your symptoms:

  • Improve posture - Avoid slouching forward or leaning against the window, and try to have 2 hands on the wheel while driving to help keep a healthy posture. You can also try to tilt your pelvis backwards (posteriorly) by engaging your stomach muscles and contracting your glutes while seated.
  • Keep hydrated - Dehydration can cause muscle pain and cramps so drinking water before and during long drives can help.
  • Don’t overextend - Arching or leaning back to try and relax while driving can overextend your back resulting in pain in your body later on.
  • Have breaks - If you’re driving for an extended time, stop and take a break every now and then for a stretch and to allow your body to move around. Just make sure it’s a safe area to pull over.
  • Applying heat - Using a hot bag on your back while driving can help relax the muscles and reduce hip pain.
  • Applying ice - Ice packs can help reduce inflammation and can be used on your back and the area around the hips after driving.
  • Stretch after driving - Being seated in one position for an extended period can tighten the hips and weaken the muscles so stretching this area out is a good idea after driving. We have included some helpful stretches you can do below.
  • Rest and recovery - It is important to allow your body to rest after driving for extended periods. Avoid strenuous exercise directly after a long drive and aim for 8 hours sleep so your body can recover.

Treatments and exercises for hip pain

There is a range of over the counter treatments you can take if you are dealing with hip pain. Before seeing your doctor, you might want to try some of the following products to see if they are able to help with your symptoms. Our pharmacists recommend:

These products work in different ways but are all able to help reduce hip pain, depending on how serious it is.

Exercises to help with hip pain

Here is a list of useful stretches you can do to help ease hip pain along with steps on how to perform each exercise.

External hip rotation

  • Sit on the floor with your legs positioned out in front of you.
  • Bend your legs at the knees so they are both pointed outwards, while pressing the soles of your feet together.
  • Put a hand on top of each knee and carefully push them down towards the floor until you feel them stretching. Only push them to a point that feels comfortable. You may have more or less mobility than others.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 seconds before pausing between each set.

Repeat the stretch 5–10 times.

Knee lift

  • Lie on your back and extend both legs flat along the floor.
  • Keep your left leg straight while pulling the right knee up towards your chest.
  • Put both of your hands on top of your knee while pulling it towards your chest.
  • Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
  • Let go of your knee and carefully lower your leg down towards the floor.

Repeat this exercise 5–10 times on each side.

Double hip rotation

  • Start by lying flat on your back. Bend your knees and bring them towards your body until your feet are placed flat on the floor.
  • Carefully rotate your knees to the left while lowering them down to the floor. Rotate your head so it is facing the right while keeping your shoulders placed on the floor.
  • Hold this position for half a minute.
  • Slowly return your head and knees to the starting pose.

Repeat this exercise 5-10 times on each side.

Hip and lower back stretch

  • Start by lying flat on your back. Bend your knees and bring them towards your body until your feet are placed flat on the floor.
  • Using your hands, pull both of your knees in towards your chest.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose as you pull your knees closer to your shoulders then breathe out through your mouth.
  • Only pull your knees in as far as feels comfortable.
  • Hold the position for half a minute while breathing normally.

Hip flexion

  • Start in a standing position with your feet facing forward.
  • You can place both hands on your hips or place one out to the side against a solid surface like a wall or door frame for support.
  • Start to slowly raise your right knee so it is level with your hip or as far as you feel comfortable. Your left leg should remain in the same starting position.
  • Hold this position for 1 second before placing your right foot back on the floor.
  • Repeat the exercise on the opposite leg.

Do 5–10 repetitions of this exercise.

Hip extension

  • Start in a standing position with your feet facing forward, shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend both arms out in front of you and hold onto a stable table or chair for support.
  • Keeping your right leg straight, raise your left leg backwards without bending the knee.
  • Raise the leg as far back as feels comfortable, then clench your buttock tightly and hold the stretch for 5 seconds.

Repeat this exercise 5–10 times on both legs. You could try and raise the resistance, by attaching light weights to your legs.

Hip abduction

  • Start in a standing position with both your feet together, facing forward.
  • You can either place both your hands together if you have really good balance or you can extend your left arm out to the side and hold on to something solid like a wall, door frame or chair.
  • Raise your right leg out to the right side of your body while keeping the left leg straight. Do not rotate your hips.
  • Hold the stretch for 5 seconds before slowly returning your right leg to the starting position.

Do this exercise 5–10 times on one leg before repeating it on the opposite leg.

When should I see a doctor?

By regularly stretching your back and hips, sitting with the correct posture, and taking breaks while driving for long periods, you can help to prevent, or at least reduce the amount of hip pain you experience.

If you feel like the pain is significantly impacting your day-to-day life you should consider contacting your doctor or local healthcare professional for advice and potential treatments or investigations they can offer.

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Dr Tom Maggs
Reviewed by Dr Tom Maggs
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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