There are the “usual” pains that are associated with being obese such as knee and low back pain, but those pains usually start to lessen over time as you lose weight. However, many of my clients have noted that for them, a new type of hip pain starts a few months after gastric bypass surgery and can last for several months. Why does this happen?

More than likely this pain is directly connected with the speed that you are losing weight and the fact that your body and muscles are having a difficult time adjusting. One of the reasons that you feel more hip pain after bypass surgery is due to a change in your walking pattern. 

One of the reasons that you feel more hip pain after bypass surgery is due to a change in your walking pattern.

Research into the differences in how obese and normal weight people walk show that there are some very specific patterns that obese people display when they walk. The pattern that the research saw that was unique to obese people is “[a] slower gait speed, wider stride width, and longer stance duration while walking compared to normal weight persons.” [1] Or to put it a different way is obese people walk a bit slower with their feet further apart from each other during the walk. That the transition from one foot to the other takes longer, with a side to side motion.  If you think about it, rather than your legs (levers) moving forward and backward at the hip joint, they are moving side to side as well.  The hip is designed to perform this movement when needed (side to side motion) but not repeated again and again and again as we walk.

This walking pattern is due to excess body fat locking down how your hips move. Actually it keeps your hips from moving normally.  So it makes perfect sense that your hips would hurt when you are carrying excess weight. Yet after a few months there is a significant reduction in fat around the hips and thighs freeing the hip joints.  So why again, do your hips start to hurt more after weight loss?

So what does this change in gait have to do with the pain in the hips?

In terms of numbers this research shows that  “Small weight loss of 7% over 3 mo produced small increases in gait velocity, stride length, stride rate, and swing duration and shortened cycle time, stance, and double support phases…”  they start to walk faster and more in line with normal weight people. 

More than likely it’s sore muscles. For years your body fat has held your hips and legs in a certain position and your muscles have adapted to this (new or different position) with some muscles not working much and atrophying (shrinking) due to lack of use. Once the body weight drops your hips will start to move more freely. In turn this challenges your once weak and under used muscles to work harder.

Once the body weight drops your hips will start to move more freely

Just like working out any muscle for the first time in a while they will get sore.  There isn’t just one muscle across the hip joint, there are several.  The extra weight that you were carrying forced some of these muscles to perform roles they weren’t accustomed to performing, while other muscles that would be responsible for your hip movements were now relegated to the sidelines and weakened without use.

Yet the good thing is as you keep moving and exercising the pain will start to go away. Simple movements like walking, climbing stairs, and just getting up and down from a chair will help. The more movement that you do the muscles will start adapting which will lead to  having less pain or soreness as they get stronger and stronger. Yet if you are noticing that the pain is getting worse then it could be something completely different and you should see your doctor.

Of course getting your hip muscles back in shape as you lose weight is just the beginning of the process. As you may be finding out there is a lot of work to this weight loss, it isn’t easy. But if you have a strong strength training program you will be much more successful with your weight loss over time.