In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic sent millions of Americans home from offices to working remote as a way to limit the spread of the virus. Now, two years later, many of those workers continue to work from home by choice. An unexpected consequence of this trend is an increase in hip-related ailments.
“There are a number of reasons why our hips can get painful when we are sitting a lot,” said Justin Guzman, PA-C, a certified physician assistant at ThedaCare Orthopedic Care. “Our bodies were not made to remain in a repetitive position; they were made to move and change positions. When we don’t move, our muscles and joints get tight and sore, and bursitis and pain from arthritis can result.”
Guzman explained what might cause hip issues.
“Sitting in a hip-flexed position for long periods of time causes our hip flexors, which run along the top part of our thigh into the pelvic region, to get short and tight,” he said. “Then the muscles on our backside – our gluteus muscles – get long and weak because we are not really using them. The result is we end up feeling super tight in the front and a little weak in the back.”
And that is when someone might notice some pain.
“When our flexors are tight and our gluteus muscles are weak and we start doing fun activities that we enjoy, those muscle groups can’t keep up,” he Guzman said. “Then we end up with hip bursitis or gluteal tendinitis that cause hip pain.”
Arthritis can be another source of hip pain. Guzman noted arthritis causes deep groin pain and tends to make people feel stiff after sitting for long periods of time. Then, if they try to do a lot of activity, the pain can increase significantly.
For most cases of hip pain, movement is medicine, especially for arthritis issues and for tight muscles.
“Moving helps get blood flowing to the muscles and increases joint fluid,” said Guzman. “When we’re moving, our synovial capsules release fluid into our joints, which lubricates them and acts as a shock absorber. That makes it important for people who sit at a desk to get up and move often. Take a break every 20 minutes or so and move around. When you’re on a phone call, stand up and move around, or drink a lot of water so you have to go to the bathroom.”
Guzman said it’s also important that people who work from home have a good, ergonomic chair.
“A good desk chair is key because positioning is important,” he said. “Your chair should provide good lumbar support to keep your spine and pelvis in a neutral position. Your hips should be flexed at a 90-degree angle so that your thighs are parallel with the floor, and your feet should be flat on the floor. Your shoulders should be relaxed and in a neutral position. The ergonomics of your entire desk space, including the position of your screen, keyboard and mouse, is important so you are not creating pressure from the neck down through the spine and not forcing your core or gluteus muscles into awkward holding positions that put pressure on the hip joint.”
Guzman said sit-to-stand desks or standing desks are good options from a hip, back and core strength standpoint.
Exercising regularly also will help prevent arthritis and muscle pain. Guzman said stretching where you are tight, and strengthening where you are weak, can help. He recommended hip flexor stretches, including standing lunge stretches, knee lunges and bridge lifts, as good ways to loosen tight muscles. To strengthen the gluteal muscles, Guzman suggested a clamshell exercise.
“Put a therapy band around your knees and spread your knees apart and then bring them together slowly, using the resistance of the band,” he said. “Do 20 reps to fatigue. Three sets of 20 reps to fatigue every other day would be a good amount of strengthening. The beauty of this exercise is it’s something that you can do right at your desk.”
He added that bridge lifts, planks and side planks are more advanced exercises for core and gluteus muscle strengthening.
“What’s important is to start slow and stack days of success in a row, and then try to do more from a strength and stamina point today than you did yesterday, interspersed with a day of rest,” he said. “That’s how you want to build up from a strength and stamina standpoint.”
Guzman also recommended a number of low-impact aerobic activities as other exercise options. Walking, walking on an elliptical machine, biking and swimming are good for your joints from an arthritis or tendinitis standpoint. A person will get exercise, but not add violent impact forces through joints.
Paying attention to hip and joint pain is important.
“Prevention and treatment go hand-in-hand,” said Guzman. “Not treating hip pain can result in progressively weakened hips that move into tendinitis and bursitis. The longer things are inflamed, the harder they are to heal. It takes six to eight weeks to strengthen muscles, and it’s hard to strengthen them once they are inflamed and painful. If we stay on top of our strength and flexibility, we can help prevent hip problems.”
Looking Ahead: ThedaCare Medical Center–Orthopedic, Spine and Pain
ThedaCare Medical Center–Orthopedic, Spine and Pain, the region’s only comprehensive health center specializing in orthopedic, spine and pain care, is set to open in summer 2022.
The 230,000 sq. ft. Center includes a medical office building, specialty surgery center, and orthopedic and spine hospital with 25 in-patient beds, as well as support services, such as imaging, lab, retail pharmacy and dining, for total patient care at a single destination. The services offered will enhance access to specialized experts, where care teams understand each person’s unique medical background, lifestyle and personal goals, getting patients back to living their best life, sooner.
Among the many unique features at ThedaCare Medical Center–Orthopedic, Spine and Pain, patients will benefit from surgery suites with the latest technology, private recovery rooms and state-of-the-art physical therapy equipment and facilities. The new facility will allow patients to access even greater integrated care. From the initial consultation to surgery, recovery and rehabilitation – it will all be available at the new location, which will make treatment even more comprehensive and convenient for patients.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.