The Art of Hobbling

There's only so long you can spend getting upset and mourning the loss of your mobility, particularly if you need to be a rock to your loved ones. If you make the decision to carry on, then you must play your remaining cards to the best of your ability, or you stand to needlessly losing more by neglect caused by being occupied by anger, sadness and resentment, as much as I enjoy the perversely thrilling power of wrath crackling through me like Force Lightning.

It is time for me to move on from the lost prospect of power-walking to the Art of Hobbling. Hobbling, I have found is harder than you might think. It requires a degree of co-ordination and awareness that would challenge a world class tennis player, because there are so many variables affecting your ability to hobble that keep shifting.

The objective of a hobble is to cover the maximum possible distance in the minimum possible time with the minimum level of pain. The problem is that your crumbling cartilage, tight hip capsule and overactive nerve network are constantly shifting in intensity, so before you even get up, you need strategies in place to calm them as much as possible. Then you are ready to work on your hobbling technique.

I'm still at the beginning of this journey of perfecting the hobble, which is very much an individual struggle because your body, arthritic condition and other miscellaneous circumstances are unique to you, and all that is constantly shifting under your feet!

Here's some things I've learned so far:

  1. Keep the walking stick for outdoors. Indoors there are plenty of supports to hold on to whilst hobbling and you will only end up with the stick in a totally inconvenient place. Keep it where the hat coat and shoes live then you always know where it is and have it handy for the exterior where you really need it.
  2. For me, contrary to the received wisdom, having the walking stick on the opposite side just doesn't work for me. This is perhaps because I need the weight off my hip rather than my leg. However the price is extra load on your right shoulder which is now I must admit a tad sore! I'm still working on the correct wielding of the stick for maximum effectiveness without new injuries to other parts.
  3. SHORT STEPS! After a lifetime of bold striding, this has taken some concentration! Sort strides seem to put less grind on the hip. I'm still working on the exact hobbling pattern, but it will be made of short steps.
  4. On getting to your feet, make it a slow flowing movement that ends up with the weight on the left leg. Now streeettcchh the right leg as far as you can get it before GENTLY taking some weight off the left leg. You are now ready to hobble with the left leg doing the work of pulling you forward and the right simply catching up.
  5. Even with the best hobble, the clock is ticking! My hip will only endure so long before seriously complaining. I reckon after 20 minutes serious hobbling, you're pushing it!
  6. Often after some initial painful hobbling, the hip will apparently settle and it becomes easier to hobble for around 15 minutes.

...I shall go on in my journey of discovery to perfect the optimum hobble. It will improve mobility and keep my mind from unhelpful dark places.



  • Jona
    Jona Member Posts: 406
  • Bap
    Bap Member Posts: 2

    Love this thread! The advice, the knowledge -most of all the humour 😅

  • anneb82
    anneb82 Member Posts: 317

    Hello @Bap

    Welcome to the online community and thank you for joining us.

    Its great to see you joining in and commenting on threads. Please feel free to share your own story in Say Hello if you would like to. We are a friendly bunch and are always looking to make new friends 😀

    I've attached the VA's Helpline number below just in case you ever need to talk to someone.

    Take care

    Anne (Moderator)

  • MaureenB
    MaureenB Member Posts: 29

    Short steps are definitely the way to go. Often the pain is worse in the groin due to the pull on the muscle from the groin to the knee (can never remember if this is an adductor or abductor). This can be worse than the hip pain as this will respond to eg a TENS machine. Short steps reduce the pain as does consciously turning out the foot on the same leg as the affected hip. Another tip is to learn how to adjust your sacro iliac joint which can be prone to going out of alignment and causing delightful pain. To do this lie on your back with your fist under your back in line with the crack in your bottom and bounce on the fist (you can do this sitting up). You can save a lot of physio fees.

  • JenHB
    JenHB Member Posts: 130

    "Why don’t they make toilets with ejector seats to help lift us off them? Oh, no, wait... 😱😳"

    I know I have thought this at times in the past (pre-RA days) usually after doing a half marathon and definitely after my marathon (and I know lots of other runners probably think the same thing).

    also, over-striding isn't just a problem for arthritis sufferers (some runners do the same thing)

    But thanks for the humour of the post!

  • Lilymary
    Lilymary Member Posts: 1,739

    @MaureenB Interesting that you mention the groin pain (psoas muscle and tendon) - were you meaning pre- or post- op? Mine was fine pre-op, despite eye watering pain from the hip itself, but has been a nightmare from day 1 post op. My surgeon says this is unusual and they don’t know why it happens, but I’m still struggling with it 18 months later (having to lift my leg in and out of cars and bed, and going through strange contortions getting dressed etc. Steroid injections haven’t really helped much, now looking at PRP injections. May be clutching at the proverbial straw here though. I find the consequences very limiting, and am fed up with the pain every time I lift my leg. Physio is rebuilding muscle strength, but nothing much seems to deal with the irritated psoas tendon itself.

  • Baloo
    Baloo Member Posts: 381

    I seem to benefit from going slower and slower or even not walkingl. Then in regards to pain taking smaller steps when there is more pain so I gradually end up going slower and slower. Also going sideways up and down stairs. I read that with age its not possible to judge traffic properly, and should allow stacks more time than you think is needed to cross the road.

  • MaureenB
    MaureenB Member Posts: 29

    HI Liliymary, my pre op pain before my first hip replacement was definitely in the groin. My osteopath gave me a specific stretch and acupuncture and always needled my inner thigh. I had a lot of pain post op too and could not do some of the exercises eg moving the hip out to the side whilst lying on the bed, for over 4 weeks. I am now two weeks post op on my second hip replacement. I am past the initial wound but still dealing with muscle trauma. But I think this time they opened up the hip from the back of thigh (hamstring) rather than the inner thigh as I don't have anything like the amount of trauma , can do all the movements, and am not getting weird pains in my leg and foot when walking. With the first hip replacement , my physio said keep trying the movement and visualise the leg moving (sounds weird but it did work eventually). It is a horrible pain and it can be very disabling. Good luck.

  • Skinny Keef
    Skinny Keef Member Posts: 852

    LMAO This is so funny and so sad at the same time.

    I have recently given up on trying to perfect the hobble. I even tried to liven it up, almost freestyle it with the momentary pause and bow supported by the mandatory stick in order to relieve lower back pain, but alas I felt that even after a decade, the perfect hobble was beyond my level of natural ability so I have gone to the darkside and I now scoot about my local area in a powerchair. Sometimes to add a little variety I use my tens machine at the same time I am using my powerchair.

    It felt like cheating the first couple of times I powered up the steep hill of my High Street, now I have a silent evil chuckle to myself as I managed to overtake even some of the non hobblers.

  • airwave
    airwave Member Posts: 579

    I have found an answer to hobbling, stand still! If I stand still the grandchildren sooner or later will rush past me and then I can reach out and shout ‘got you’, turn them upside down and tickle them. Victory! Works every time.

    like the ejecting toilet seat!

    it’s a grin, honest!

  • Faballball
    Faballball Member Posts: 9

    Oh i loved your hobble.

    unfortunately im in next stage which is walker, stick. Get up out of chair without using riser, stand holding walker handles till knee joints settle. Assisted hobble to kitchen. Easier to turn walker around and use stick as kitchen too small to continue to use walker. Practice stretching from cupboard to kettle. Stand steady and stretch up to get coffee from shelf thats just a bit further than you thought. Swing your arms around to land coffee on side, stretch again to close cupboard doors. Stand steady, then practice one arm weight training by lifting kettle up to pour hot water to convenient cup. Do short assisted stick hobble to get extra water for kettle. Short assisted hobble back.

    excercise wrist left or tight by stirring coffee whilst doing a neck rotation or two. Do a slide with left foot, followed by right and weight lift full cup with right arm. Bend at the waist tonplace cup on walker tray. Do one more twist and stretch to gain collection of fruit or toast.

    now assist hobble to next room, bend from waist to collect yoghurt from little fridge, short assisted hobble to chair.

    should you feel exhausted at this point, raise legs with assisted chair, relax and take nourishment.

    osteoarthritis, severe stage.

  • AnnC
    AnnC Member Posts: 2

    I found when my hip was at its worse, before surgery, using 2 sticks was the best. Using one puts so much strain on the other side. Even now when I have a flare up of pain in my back I use 2 sticks which enables me to stand upright and walk more evenly. I also agree with tge original writer, don't use sticks inside if you can manage. Most importantly make sure your sticks are at tge right height, a physio can measure them for you. It makes a massive difference. Good luck to all of you in the winter.

  • Anna
    Anna Moderator Posts: 925

    Hi @AnnC and welcome to the online forum,

    It's great to see that you've joined us and jumped straight in with some helpful advice on walking after a hip operation - thank you!

    Our members all have experience of living with arthritis and are friendly and keen to share help and advice - I'm sure you'll fit straight in.

    Gentle exercise is good for arthritic joints and can help build strength so that you can stand and walk without as much pain. Perhaps you might find the following link useful:

    Best wishes,

    Anna (Mod)

    Need more help? - call our Helpline on 0800 5200 520 Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm

  • crackpot
    crackpot Member Posts: 5


    I have got OA in my left knee and overstretched muscles in my right leg. I'm hoping that I can get onto a list for a TKR but after being told x 2 that I'm too young ( I'm 56 ) I ve not given up. I retired from nursing last year and because I miss it so much did a rehab support workers job in the community - wrong I made my knee worse because of going to peoples houses and driving , also time restrictions I have had to give up the job typical . I had to cross a busy road to see a client . It was a double up . Now if one can only hobble across you think that cars would not have the patience but People well some see me in my uniform and hobble do stop and let me cross although a kind gentleman shouted out who needs the care more!!! Charming my legs may not be what they are but the rest of me is OK . Some people are not so patient and I have been nearly run down I suppose one way to get a knee replacement ! I did however feel insulted when a relative said that I was a cripple in front of everyone so I just left the house in tears

    I've taken to having a stick outside nowadays which gives me some support, but again I have had to give up a job I love.

  • I don’t come here very often as I find it difficult to negotiate my way around the site, that’s me I suspect rather than the site. About the hobble tho, I thinks it’s really important not to rely on a walking stick as you’ll end up with more arthritis in other places. I started off with one arthritic knee & now have two arthritic knees, two arthritic shoulders & two arthritic hands. I’m sure the hand problems are a result of using a stick, the consultant told me the arthritis in my other knee was a result of hobbling & using a stick. See a physio if you can & get advice about not putting too much pressure on other joints. I use a walker when out as it spreads the weight of support across both hands.

  • Anna
    Anna Moderator Posts: 925

    Hi @Northernhippy , sorry you find it difficult to negotiate the site. Have you had a look at our guide on how to use the community? It might be helpful.

    It would be useful to know if there's anything you find especially difficult - if it's hard for you, it's probably hard for a lot of people!

    Best wishes,

    Anna (Mod)

    Need more help? - call our Helpline on 0800 5200 520 Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm

  • N1gel
    N1gel Member Posts: 160

    Yes, I was given crutches for a leg injury and now have OA in at least one elbow (last time I counted them) and one thumb. I'd have started using a wheelchair earlier if I'd known.

    BTW do you use that username for an online crossword forum?

  • Baloo
    Baloo Member Posts: 381

    I am wondering about hobbling distance because if I take it easy, my stride comes back. I feel a bit undecided if I want to stay on the good side of having a stride, but have to loaf around a lot more to keep it going, or the more difficult side of hobbling around, to get more done. Maybe one day I won't have a choice.

  • Woofy
    Woofy Member Posts: 253

    I’ve had a little chuckle at these posts. I’m still at the stage of trying to get my knickers on of a morning without falling over.

    the other day I even managed to get them on inside out😀

    i had heard somewhere, it was unlucky to reverse inside out underwear, so they stayed put.

    who am I trying to kid, it was definitely less painful to leave them exactly where they were.😅

  • Lambourne
    Lambourne Member Posts: 21

    I am trying to perfect the art of hobbling and feel a bit daft using a stick but it is necessary to stop me falling over. Yesterday I saw someone much younger that me with a really funky transparent stick and complimented her on it, she showed me that it could light up- now I want one, they are a bit pricey but just because we hobble doesn’t mean we have to be boring (the company that makes them is neowalks), not sure I can justify the £90 the way things are though.

  • Skinny Keef
    Skinny Keef Member Posts: 852
    edited 12. Dec 2022, 11:55

    OMG thats so funny, means I’m not alone in my struggles with dressing, especially the lower half.

    I wear fleecy leggins this time of year under my jeans or track suit bottoms (yes womens leggins, I don’t care what gender they are so long as I’m warm) and it’s such a struggle to get them on some days lol

  • Skinny Keef
    Skinny Keef Member Posts: 852

    Being a hobbler definitely doesn’t mean boring @Lambourne

    my wife has pimped up my power chair with neon lights underneath like the street racers put on their cars. She likes a walk after dinner in the evening and for months now I haven’t been able to walk at her speed so now we call it a roll and stroll and as it’s dark when we go I said I needed some lights for crossing the side streets we encounter and next things it’s lit up like a Subaru on steroids. Shame it can’t do a quarter mile at the same speed.