Why We Hold Trauma in Our Hips—And 4 Ways To Release It

Photo: Getty Images / m-gucci
When it comes to trauma, we often think about the mental effects—but accidentally ignore the physical ones. According to Gretchen Schmelzer, PhD, who previously told Well+Good: "[Trauma is] an event or experience that overwhelms your capacities to depend on or protect yourself. It renders you helpless."

And even after you’ve mentally processed a traumatic experience, for example a trauma bonding relationship, your body may still be activated by it, which is why we hold trauma in our hips or other parts of our bodies, for example.

“When you are tense, your shoulders are tense. Your heart rate increases. You hold your breath for a while or your breathing becomes shallow. You may be clenching your hands,” says Yukari Makino, PhD, SEP, a practitioner of Somatic Experiencing (a body-oriented model of therapy that focuses on calming the nervous system). “While actually experiencing the mind-body experience, many people are conscious of the stress of the mind and not of the body.”

Experts In This Article

The connection between trauma and the hips

Going even deeper, specific parts of our bodies are often associated with specific traumas. For women in particular, trauma frequently sticks in the hips.

“A lot of women hold energy in the hips, and a lot of it has to do with being of service and the kind of the healing qualities that women bring to their families—this nurturing quality that we have,” says Elana Clark-Faler, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in trauma and is trained in Somatic Experiencing. “Also, when you’re not moving forward in your life—when you’re really struggling with moving forward—there can be problems within the hips.”

Trauma held in the hips can feel like soreness, tightness, tenderness, or pulling. Everybody’s traumas and experiences are unique, so seeking the guidance of a trauma therapist who can customize your treatment is a good idea. If therapy is not available to you, though, there are other options.

Here are 4 simple ways to help you release trauma held in your hips

1. Bring awareness to another area of your body

“If my client is starting to feel a lot of tension in their hips while I’m doing work with them, then I may ask them to bring attention to a non-activated part in their body—and that can begin to loosen the hips,” Clark-Faler says. “It might be having them stand and do types of different pelvic movements. It might actually be having them press energy into the wall. It might be wringing a towel: three times one way, three times the other way.”

2. Swing your hands

Particularly if you’re having a hard time setting boundaries (perhaps in the form of taking on too much or caring for others before yourself), Clark-Faler suggests the somatic exercise of naturally swinging your hands north and south, and then doing the same thing east and west.

“Then I say, ‘Okay, you feel that swing, just that natural swing back and forth with your hands? That right there is a boundary.’ So it’s just helping them become more conscious of this energetic boundary around their body.”

3. Dance

“What’s preventing you from being active—from expressing yourself in the way that your body wants to express?” asks Clark-Faler. One way to figure this out is to engage in simple dance movements. Close the blinds (or not) in your living room, put on a feel-good song, and let your body move softly and freely, without audience or judgment.

4. Ask questions

At the core of Clark-Faler’s practice is a curiosity that leads to introspection. Try asking yourself these questions and see if that alone can cause a tension release: What are you holding too much of? What do you need to let go? What’s taking up too much space? Be honest with yourself, but also be forgiving.

“Tension wants to discharge,” Clark-Faler says. “It wants to leave the body.” Sometimes we just need to help it along.


1. What emotions are held in the hips?

Stress, fear, and anger are common emotions stored in your hips. This is because when you experience these feelings, it's common to clench your muscles—including your hip muscles—according to Ekhart Yoga. This can result in tight hips until you've begun to heal from your trauma.

2. What does releasing trauma feel like?

According to Attune Philadelphia Therapy Group, when you release trauma from your body a few things may happen:

  • You feel more present and relaxed
  • Your extremities may feel warmer
  • Your muscles aren't tense
  • Your heartbeat slows down
  • Your blood pressure decreases

3. How long does it take to release trauma?

There's no single answer to this question because everyone is different. For some, it can take weeks or months to heal from trauma, according to Sabino Recovery. For others, it can take years. How past trauma affects you It's is all dependent on the person and how much support they have. When healing from and releasing trauma, it's important to find a recovery method that works for you.

The Wellness Intel You Need—Without the BS You Don't
Sign up today to have the latest (and greatest) well-being news and expert-approved tips delivered straight to your inbox.

Loading More Posts...