A few years ago, I had a pain in my right thigh. I assumed I had pulled a muscle and soldiered on.
Until, that is, it interfered with my playing the bass drum on my drum kit. That’s when I finally saw a physical therapist.
Turns out, the pain wasn’t coming from my thigh. It was stemming from my hip area — more specifically, from my glutes. Only after many sessions with my physical therapist and exercising at home was I back to pounding away on the skins pain-free.
While many people age 50 and older know they need to focus on their arms, legs and back when working out, they are most likely ignoring other parts of their bodies. You probably are, too.
“As we age, we may think we’re active and doing the things to keep us that way,” says Joe Palmer, a doctor of physical therapy, VP and co-owner of Active Life & Sports Physical Therapy in Maryland. Oftentimes, he says, when patients come to his clinics with pain in their lower extremities, it's because they aren’t keeping their hips strong. “Hip strengthening is where you get the most bang for your buck,” Palmer says. “People who walk slower typically have weaker hips, and that impacts their balance.” He says this is also what's happening with folks who have trouble getting up from the floor or out of a chair without using their arms.
When Palmer says “hips,” he’s talking about the gluteal muscles: the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. “When people have weakness, it’s really in those, the primary hip stabilizers,” he says.
According to Palmer, people also often forget about their core. A strong core, he says, helps you maintain your balance “as you are intentionally trying to reach for something or go outside your base of support.”