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Physical Therapy for Hip Dysplasia – Information, Exercises, and More

Walking is painful. The slight unevenness in your legs makes you a tad self-conscious. You wake in the mornings feeling achy and uncomfortable around your hip.

Living with hip dysplasia can be frustrating. Simply doing normal daily tasks takes a little extra work, and managing your pain has become a job in itself.

Physical therapy for hip dysplasia is a great option for pain management and body awareness.

In this guide, learn how following a hip dysplasia physical therapy protocol can help you live a more enjoyable life.


What Is Hip Dysplasia?

When the acetabulum is too shallow to support the femoral head — the top of the femur or thigh bone — hip dysplasia occurs. 

Hip dysplasia, or developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), is most common in women, many of whom are born with it. 

Why is that the case? Females tend to have more ligament laxity than males, and infants have softer hip joints than adults. This combination makes it easier for female infants to develop hip dysplasia as their hip becomes misaligned or dislocated.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?

Many people are born with hip dysplasia but are likely unaware because symptoms don’t often present themselves until adulthood. Other times, it is typically developed within the first year of a person’s life.

Adults can develop hip dysplasia, but it is most often a diagnosis that wasn’t determined in childhood likely from a lack of symptoms.

Develops In the Womb

Because of the position a baby takes in utero, there can be increased pressure on the hips. We know females tend to have more ligament laxity than males, so as they take position in the womb, hip dysplasia can occur.

A baby that is breech in the womb is also at an increased risk for developing hip dysplasia.

Babies may also be at a slightly increased risk for developing hip dysplasia if they have:

  • Down-syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • A fixed foot deformity; or
  • Torticollis


Although genetics can play a role in an infant developing hip dysplasia, it’s not a direct cause. However, here are the statistics:

  • If one child has DDH, there’s a 6% chance another child will.
  • If a parent has DDH, there’s a 12% chance a child will.
  • If both a parent and a child have DDH, the risk of more children having DDH is 36%.

Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

Symptoms of hip dysplasia may present both physically and internally. Be aware of all of the possible DDH symptoms to fully understand if you or someone you know may be experiencing hip dysplasia.

Physical Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

Someone suffering from hip dysplasia may:

  • Have legs that are different lengths
  • Have a leg that turns outward
  • Have uneven skin folds on their groin or thigh
  • Lean to one side when standing
  • Have minimal or complete loss of range of motion in the hip
  • Limp when walking

Internal Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

Someone suffering from hip dysplasia may have internal symptoms like:

  • Pain when sleeping on the affected hip
  • Pain in the groin that increases with activity 
  • A sensation of popping, snapping or catching at the hip
  • A stiff hip joint

Hip Dysplasia Treatment

It’s possible to manage and treat hip dysplasia without surgery, but if those options fail to provide relief from pain or enhance a person’s quality of life, there are options for surgery.

You should know that treatments often require the wearing of braces, casts, or splints for several months, but if left untreated, painful arthritis will likely occur over time.

Non-Surgical Hip Dysplasia Treatments

Depending on the severity of your hip dysplasia diagnosis and your age, medical professionals may suggest treating DDH differently. 

  • Infants under six months are usually treated using a Pavlik harness that is designed to hold the ball portion of the joint in its socket for several months. During this process, the socket molds to the shape of the ball.
  • For babies over six months, a doctor might suggest moving the bones into the proper position and using a full-body cast to hold them in place for several months. Surgery could be necessary here to properly fit the joints together. 
  • A closed reduction procedure is a nonsurgical option that moves the hip joint to its correct position. 
  • In some mold cases, including some physical therapy hip dysplasia exercises into your lifestyle can be a helpful option to help lubricate the joint and ease mobility.

Surgical Hip Dysplasia Treatments

There are also surgical options available to help heal hip dysplasia. 

In more severe cases, a periacetabular osteotomy might be suggested. During a periacetabular osteotomy, the socket is cut free from the pelvis and then repositioned so it better aligns with the ball.

Hip replacement surgery might be suggested for older people suffering from debilitating arthritis from hip dysplasia that has caused the hip to become severely damaged over time. 

Hip Dysplasia Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?


Physical therapy is a great option for hip dysplasia patients to help:

  • Strengthen muscles surrounding the hip
  • Joint mobility
  • Correct poor posture
  • Tendon inflammation
  • Gait 
  • Body awareness

Medical professionals also may recommend:

  • Including low- or non-impact exercises into your weekly routine to strengthen muscles and increase range of motion like:
    • Swimming
    • Aquatic therapy
    • Cycling
    • Ballet or barre
    • Bodyweight exercises 
  • Losing or maintaining weight to reduce the stress and pain in the hip
  • Hippotherapy to improve motor function

Best Hip Dysplasia Exercises

To get the most out of physical therapy for hip dysplasia, you might consider including the following exercises into your routine:

Glute Activations

Learning to isolate and activate the gluteus medius helps to correct the over-dominance of the tensor fascia lata muscle that often becomes hypertrophied over the hip. You might experience muscle spasms or psoas irritation as a result. 

To perform glute activations:

  1. Place a band around your upper thighs.
  2. Lay on your back with knees bent and shoulder width apart.
  3. Place your thumbs on the front of your hips and fingers behind your hip bone (think back pocket of your pants).
  4. Gently push your knees outwards into the band.

If performed correctly, you should feel the area where your fingers are activating and not feel movement underneath your thumbs.

You can also add a bridge to the glute activation by pushing through your heels and raising your pelvis off the floor and towards the ceiling before slowly lowering back down.


To help stabilize the pelvis while walking, sliders work to teach the gluteus medius to control the pelvis.

To perform slides, think about working the static leg, not the sliding leg. 

Try this:

  1. Ensure you’re wearing socks or place something to slide underneath your foot (plastic bag, paper plate, slider).
  2. Stand in a mini squat position and lean your elbows onto a surface about chest height (counter, railing, dresser).
  3. Gently slide the foot out to the side and slightly backward without shifting your pelvis or allowing your knee to rise or fall.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.

If performed correctly, you’ll feel the burn around the back pocket area of your static leg.

Hip Abduction

To help improve hip stability, try this:

  1. Lay on your side with your bottom leg bent and top leg straight.
  2. Lift your top leg toward the ceiling and slowly lower it back down.
  3. Repeat 10-15 times.

To be sure you’re performing this correctly, focus on keeping your pelvis from rolling backward during the lift.

Banded Lateral Walk

To perform:

  1. Place a mini-band around your ankles.
  2. While in a slight squat, maintain tension in the band and slowly step sideways.
  3. Perform 10 steps each way.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Hip Dysplasia

Many exercises and stretches can help relieve pain from hip dysplasia and work to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip, and working with a trusted physical therapist can be helpful in getting the proper treatment.

At In Motion O.C., we’ve helped hundreds of patients with ailments of all types — including many hip ailments — and our patients have had great experiences. That’s why we are rated the #1 physical therapy clinic in the country on both Google and Yelp. 

Our testimonials speak for themselves.

If you’re eager to get relief from the pain and discomfort you’re experiencing, contact us today to request a free screening. We’re happy to help and look forward to hearing from you.


The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.

In Motion O.C.