In today’s article, I want to talk about hip pain and whether it’s caused by your rowing machine or not.
I also have good news for those with hip pain- if it did occur because of rowing, there are things you can do to prevent it from happening again.
I want to say right up front that I am not a doctor, nurse, or health care professional. Nothing I say here should be considered medical advice. You should always consult with your doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist if you’re experiencing pain.
As Shakira’s song says, “Hips Don’t Lie”, so let’s see what your hips are trying to tell you.
Ready? Let’s talk about hips and pain and prevention.
Can Rowing Cause Hip Pain?
Let’s get right down to business, shall we?
Rowing can cause hip joint pain, but it’s a secondary type of issue. The same way in which hot coffee heats up the cup, but you wouldn’t say that, in and of itself, the cup was hot, correct?
Rowing can give you hip pain, but this typically happens to those who have tight hip flexors.
Snapping Hip Syndrome, or SHS, is a fairly common injury in those who row frequently. You can actually hear the hip joint snap- a distinct and most noticeable characteristic of SHS- as you bend forward or when you bend back on the Finish stroke.
Most people feel pain, but a few don’t.
In many instances, people experience hip pain when rowing or after rowing due to tight hip flexors or inflamed hip flexors caused by overuse.
This is one reason why stretching is so important, friends!
So Why Do My Hips Hurt After Rowing? Is It Hip Flexor Tightness?
Yes, hip flexor tightness is one of the most common reasons people suffer from a painful hip after rowing.
This pain is often felt deep within the hip, just below the beltline area. It can start within a few minutes after rowing, or you might not feel it until you stop rowing and stand up.
The rectus femoris tendon attaches the pelvis to the front of the hip and causes the pain in most instances. This tendon is what allows you to bring your knees to your chest, so it’s a small but pretty important tendon.
For most of us going about our daily lives, this tendon and the muscles surrounding it don’t get a whole lot of attention. If you think about your everyday job, house cleaning, sleeping, and walking around, you will rarely find a reason to bring your knees to your chest.
However, when it comes to rowing, this movement happens over and over again. Our hip flexors and tendons get quite a workout, and for some rowers, this overuse of what are normally tight hip flexors can lead to inflammation and pain.
How Can I Stop Hip Pain While Rowing?
No one is going to like what I’m about to say, but it’s true!
First, you need to either cut back on your workouts or stop them completely for a short time.
I know that it’s not fun to think about quitting your exercise routine, but in most instances, the hip flexors and tendons need to rest so that the inflammation goes away. Only then will healing take place.
Try cutting back on your rowing routine by half. If you row 6 days a week, cut back to 3. If you row 4 hours a week, cut back to 2 hours.
If you still feel pain, you will need to stop rowing completely for 4-6 weeks. This doesn’t mean you can’t do other types of exercise, just not running, stair climbing, or rowing.
It’s only a few weeks, and while it might feel like forever, your body will heal more quickly than you realize, and before your know it, you’ll be ready to use your rowing machine again.
However, you should make some changes to how you row to prevent reinjuring yourself.
One of the best tricks I ever learned doesn’t seem to make sense, but it really works.
Don’t strap your feet onto the footrests.
How could this possibly work?
Think about it. Without the straps, you can’t press back as hard with your quadriceps muscles. You will need to use your upper body and core muscles to keep yourself in place and balanced. This prevents you from using your hip flexors and tendons to slow yourself down. You will have a more concentrated effort on the handle and in staying upright, rather than using those tight hip flexors to slow yourself down.
Also, without having your feet strapped down tight, you can’t use your hip flexors to return you to the start position. You will end up using your hamstrings to bend at the knee and get back to the start position.
This short video explains the entire thing perfectly. Pay attention to the woman’s feet and how much they push and flex as she rows when she has her feet strapped down.
The TL:DR version is that by unstrapping your feet, you force your body to use other muscles and release the pressure you would normally put on your hip flexor.
Now That You’ve Got Better Form
I highly recommend the video above. It will take less than 5 minutes of your time, but it helps to explain how unstrapping your feet will not only reduce or eliminate hip pain, but it will also force you to use better form because of the natural mechanics that are in play.
Of course, you don’t have to cut the foot straps off of your rowing machine! This is simply a measure to help you until your hip flexor and tendons heal and return to normal.
Once your hip pain has disappeared, you can try using the straps again, and hopefully, your improved form will now be a habit!
Is Rowing Bad for Hip Arthritis?
The truth is that rowing is actually terrific for those who have hip arthritis or other types of arthritis or even knee pain.
When you do strengthening exercises, like rowing or weight training, you add strength to the muscles supporting the joints, reducing the pressure on them.
By rowing, you strengthen your leg, glute muscles, and quadriceps muscles that support both the knee joint and hip joint, reducing the pressure you exert on those joints. I know, my knees have far less pain since I started rowing.
When it comes to hips, you might find that, in addition to strength training the glute muscles and hamstrings, foam-rolling after each rowing workout will also help prevent further episodes of pain.
If you have hip arthritis, you should consider doing regular stretching exercises to prevent the iliopsoas tendon and hip flexor from becoming chronically tight.
What If I Have Chronically Tight Hip Flexors?
Let’s face facts- everyone is different. I know that my husband always has issues with tight hamstrings, so he needs to stretch twice a day, morning and night, to keep them flexible enough that they don’t cause low back pain.
If you have tight hip flexors that end up causing you pain especially when rowing, you might want to follow the same routine that my husband does: Stretch every morning and every night.
It really only takes a few minutes, but it can make a world of difference not only to your pain level but also your overall range of motion. Most stretching exercises require no special equipment, and they will often help prevent pain and even injury.
I also recommend regular massage therapy in addition to stretching. I think that a good yoga workout once or twice a week with some regular morning and evening stretches, combined with a good massage to improve circulation and a full range of motion is one of the best-kept secrets in the world.
Whether you want a sports massage, deep tissue massage, or a regular relaxing Swedish massage, this type of therapy is more than just a feel-good measure. Massage is healing, and it can help all the muscles in the body get fresh nutrients and oxygen and encourage new growth. These are just a few reasons why massage therapy is not only a relaxing treat, but rather true physical therapy.