Solutions For Hip External Rotation Pain: Stretches & Exercises

hip external rotation pain

You’ve probably felt it: that sharp, sudden twinge or that lingering ache in your hip as you rotate it outward. Hip external rotation pain, while common, is not something you should just “live with.” Believe it or not, relief might be just a few stretches or exercises away. But before you resign yourself to a life limited by hip pain, dive into this guide. Discover simple, actionable steps to understand, manage, and significantly reduce your hip external rotation pain.

Understanding Hip External Rotation

Hip external rotation, simply put, refers to the outward turning of your thigh bone (femur) in relation to your hip joint. It’s a movement you might not think about often, but it’s foundational to many of the activities you engage in daily. Every time you step out of a car, pivot in a dance, or even adjust your stance while standing, you’re using hip external rotation.

Understanding the mechanics of hip external rotation is the first step in recognizing its significance. It plays a pivotal role in our mobility, allowing us to walk with a natural gait, participate in sports, and engage in countless daily tasks without discomfort or restriction. When pain interferes with this rotation, it not only disrupts our physical activities but also signals that something might be amiss in the delicate balance of our hip musculature.

Common Causes of Hip External Rotation Pain

Hip external rotation pain isn’t just a fleeting discomfort; it can be a sign pointing towards an underlying issue, and it often interrupts daily activities and athletic endeavors. While the causes can be multifaceted, the following are some of the most common culprits:

  • Sports and Physical Activities: Athletes or individuals engaged in sports such as ballet, martial arts, or even certain gym exercises can sometimes overstrain the external rotator muscles. Repetitive motions or sudden, forceful external rotation can lead to micro-tears or muscle strains.
  • Incorrect Posture: Consistently sitting with crossed legs or standing with one hip jutted out can put undue pressure on the hip joint, leading to discomfort during external rotation.
  • Overuse Injuries: Jobs or activities that require frequent twisting motions or prolonged periods of sitting might contribute to overuse injuries in the hip’s external rotators.
  • Direct Trauma: A direct blow or fall on the side of the hip can injure the muscles responsible for external rotation or cause bursitis (inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs that cushion the hip joint).
  • Underlying Medical Conditions: Conditions such as hip labral tears, piriformis syndrome (where the piriformis muscle irritates the sciatic nerve), or even certain types of arthritis can cause pain during external rotation.
  • Tightness or Muscle Imbalances: A lack of flexibility in the hip muscles or an imbalance between the strength of internal and external rotator muscles can result in pain during movements.
  • Degenerative Conditions: Over time, wear and tear on the hip joint, such as osteoarthritis, can lead to pain during various movements, including external rotation.

Understanding the root cause of external rotation pain is vital. It helps in targeting treatments effectively and ensuring that interventions are not just about immediate pain relief but also long-term hip health.

Targeted External Rotation Stretches for Hip Relief

Stretching can be a powerful tool in the arsenal against hip external rotation pain. The right stretches, performed consistently, can improve flexibility, decrease muscle tension, and ultimately alleviate pain. Here are some targeted stretches that can help:

Seated Figure-Four Stretch

  • How to Do It:
    • Sit on a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor.
    • Cross your right ankle over your left knee, forming a figure four with your legs.
    • Keeping your spine straight, gently press down on your right knee and lean forward slightly from your hips. You should feel a stretch in the outer hip.
    • Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Hip External Rotator Stretch

  • How to Do It:
    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    • Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, just above the knee.
    • Grasp the back of your left thigh with both hands and gently pull it towards your chest.
    • Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, feeling the stretch in the right hip, then switch sides.

Standing Piriformis Stretch

  • How to Do It:
    • Stand beside a wall or sturdy surface for balance.
    • Cross your right ankle over your left knee, forming a figure four.
    • Slowly bend your left knee and push your hips back, as if you’re sitting in a chair.
    • Keep your chest lifted and push gently on your right knee. You should feel a stretch in the right hip.
    • Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Hip Flexor and Quad Stretch

  • How to Do It:
    • Stand tall and hold onto a wall or sturdy surface for balance.
    • Bend your right knee and grasp your right ankle with your right hand, pulling it gently towards your buttocks.
    • Keep your knees close together and push your hips forward slightly. You should feel a stretch in the front of your right hip and thigh.
    • Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Consistency is key when it comes to stretching. Dedicate some time each day to perform these stretches, and over time, they can significantly reduce hip external rotation pain. Always ensure you maintain proper form to prevent injuries and maximize the benefits.

Strength-Building Exercises for Hip Stability

Strengthening the muscles around the hip joint can provide more stability, and better support during movements, and reduce the discomfort associated with hip external rotation pain. Strong muscles can absorb stress better, distribute the load evenly, and prevent excessive wear and tear on the joint. Here are some effective exercises for building hip strength:


  • How to Do It:
    • Lie on your side with your legs stacked and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
    • Keeping your feet touching, lift the top knee as high as you can without moving your pelvis.
    • Slowly lower the knee back down.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side.

Fire Hydrants

  • How to Do It:
    • Start on all fours in a tabletop position.
    • Without moving your spine, lift your right knee out to the side.
    • Lower the knee back to the starting position.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side.

Hip Bridges

  • How to Do It:
    • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
    • Pushing through your heels, lift your hips towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top.
    • Slowly lower your hips back down.
    • Perform 15-20 repetitions.

Standing Leg Lifts

  • How to Do It:
    • Stand tall beside a wall or sturdy surface for support.
    • Keeping your leg straight, lift it out to the side as high as you can without leaning to the opposite side.
    • Slowly lower the leg back down.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side.

Resisted External Rotation

  • How to Do It:
    • Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
    • Loop a resistance band around your feet.
    • With your feet close together, turn your feet outward against the resistance of the band.
    • Slowly return to the starting position.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions.

When performing these exercises, it’s crucial to maintain proper form and avoid any movements that increase pain. Start with a resistance level that is manageable and increase it gradually as your strength improves. Incorporating these strength-building exercises into your routine can contribute significantly to better hip stability and reduced discomfort.

Safety Precautions and Tips To Prevent Further Hip External Rotation Pain

Ensuring you exercise safely is crucial to prevent further injury or discomfort, especially when targeting areas already experiencing pain. Here are some safety guidelines and tips to bear in mind:

  • Start Slowly: Especially if you’re new to an exercise, begin with a lower intensity and gradually increase as you become more accustomed.
  • Maintain Proper Form: Incorrect posture or form can exacerbate pain and lead to new injuries. It might be beneficial to consult with a physical therapist or watch video demonstrations to ensure you’re doing exercises correctly.
  • Listen to Your Body: If an exercise causes sharp or increasing pain, stop immediately. Discomfort is a clear sign that something might be wrong.
  • Warm-Up First: Before diving into any exercise routine, spend 5-10 minutes warming up with light cardio (like brisk walking) to increase blood flow to the muscles.
  • Stretch After Exercising: After you finish your strength exercises, stretch the muscles you’ve worked. This can help in reducing muscle tightness and increasing flexibility.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising to help muscle function and recovery.
  • Avoid Overexertion: It’s essential to challenge yourself, but pushing too hard can be counterproductive. If you feel extreme fatigue, it’s time to take a break.
  • Use Supportive Gear: Wear appropriate footwear that provides good arch and ankle support. Consider using exercise mats for floor exercises to cushion and protect your joints.

Remember, the goal is to alleviate hip external rotation pain, not to exacerbate it. By keeping these safety precautions in mind, you can ensure a more effective and pain-free exercise experience.

When to Consult a Physical Therapist or Doctor

While home exercises can be highly beneficial, there are moments when professional intervention becomes necessary. You should seek expert advice if:

  • Persistent Pain: Pain that doesn’t subside after several days of rest and self-care could be indicative of a more serious issue.
  • Increasing Discomfort: If exercises exacerbate the pain or lead to new types of discomfort, it’s a clear sign to get a professional opinion.
  • Limited Mobility: If you’re experiencing a significant reduction in your range of motion or difficulty performing daily tasks, consulting a professional becomes paramount.
  • Unexplained Symptoms: Any sudden or unexplained symptoms, such as swelling, bruising, or numbness, should prompt an immediate consultation.

Engaging with a physical therapist or doctor ensures a precise diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan, helping you return to your regular activities pain-free.


Hip external rotation pain can not only limit your daily activities but also affect your overall well-being. While stretches and exercises can often provide relief, it’s crucial to know when to seek expert assistance. Remember, there’s no substitute for personalized guidance tailored to your specific situation. If you’re experiencing persistent hip pain, don’t hesitate. Physical therapy for hip pain at PhysioMantra can offer you the relief and guidance you need. Book an online physical therapy session today and take the first step towards a pain-free life.