Featured Exercise: Increasing Hip Range of Motion (ROM) with Leg Circles

Any joint that needs increased mobility can hugely benefit from the buoyancy of the water.  Hips, particularly, seem to love the movement that is possible when gravity is removed and buoyancy takes over.  Let’s say your patient, client, or student has a sore hip and decreased range of motion compared to the unaffected hip.  One of the best exercises you can provide is Leg Circles.

Ask your patient, client, or student if they have been diagnosed with femoroacetabular impingement (FAI).  FAI patients should keep their hip flexion below 45 degrees, which is about half of that shown in the photos.

Depending on how restricted the motion is in the sore hip, you can start the circles as low as having them draw the circle with their foot on the bottom of the pool.  Have her do 10-20 reps in each direction – clockwise and counter-clockwise.  If that’s easy and pain-free, she can lift the foot 20-30 degrees off the bottom and continue the circles.

I always discuss a “red line” with patients.  The red line is where they begin to feel pain.  I advise them to find the red line, then back away from it so there is no pain as they do the exercise.  Keep your patient pain-free, and don’t be surprised if the ROM simply improves over time, as if by magic.  I’ve seen that happen countless times.  Patients who don’t have FAI will soon be lifting their leg as high as shown in these three photos.

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