Like anyone, I have aches and pains. I enjoy weightlifting and I suffer through cardio. A decade-plus of the two has left me with a souvenir injury across most parts of my body. In short, my back hurts sometimes and my hips are incredibly inflexible.
There are plenty of folks worse off than me, but in wanting to nip these issues in the bud, I Googled around until I found potential solutions. After sifting through dozens of articles suggesting I take up yoga (I’ll get to it eventually), I stumbled into something called an Aletha Hip Hook. It looks like it hurts, which, if physical therapy has taught me anything, means it probably works. I bought one and put it through the paces to find out.
What Is the Hip Hook?
First sold in 2020, the Hip Hook is a small, curvy, mostly plastic tool made by a woman-owned company called Aletha. Its design is meant to target the iliacus and psoas muscles, which connect to your pelvis and make up what we call the hip flexors. The tool costs $199 and is available on Aletha Health’s website.
What Does the Hip Hook Do?
The three primary functions of the Hip Hook are tension release, pain relief, and increased mobility. Each of these play into one another, obviously, but every user can expect slightly different results from using one depending on their own deficiencies.
The Hip Hook is one of very few stretching tools dedicated to stretching the iliacus and psoas muscle groups. These muscles can stiffen and cause lower back, hip, knee pain. This stiffening can also limit hip mobility and affect a number of different movements and exercises. It doesn’t matter whether you exercise frequently or are mostly sedentary—the iliacus and psoas muscles stiffen from lack of movement or too much movement in a similar fashion.
The Hip Hook itself is designed to apply precise pressure onto the iliacus—which is between the outside of your waist and the side of your core—with the goal of releasing the tension these muscles are prone to, thereby relieving pain. What pain? Well, the muscles we’re talking about support a lot of different movements, so stretching them can, in theory, solve a pretty long list of pain points. Here are the pains Aletha Health, the company that designed the Hip Hook, says the tool can remedy:
- Lower back pain
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain
- Hip pain
- Knee pain
- Plantar fasciitis
- Hip immobility
Know what happens when you release tension and relieve pain? You can move more freely. If the tool works as advertised, you should be able to move in all directions without pain and with more mobility.
What’s Good About the Hip Hook
Super specific stretching
It can’t be overstated how valuable a dedicated stretching tool can be. I’m not talking about a tool for larger, easy-to-target muscles like your quads or chest—I’m talking about tools that pull apart the hard-to-get-to-spots like your iliacus and psoas. These are muscle groups that would traditionally be addressed by experts—physical therapists, massage therapists, athletic trainers, etc.—because of the difficulty associated with stretching them correctly. Being able to buy a relatively simple tool to address them is incredibly valuable.
Significant mobility boost
After two months of fairly consistent use, the mobility gain was greater than any other benefit I got from the Hip Hook.
I’ve never been flexible, but I can get noticeably deeper into my barbell squat than before integrating the tool into my recovery periods, and I can do so with no pain or imbalance in the movement.
Before using the Hip Hook, I had issues with getting loose enough for sprints or really any kind of elevated pace. I felt too much tightness in my hips and lower back. This has been completely eliminated in the two months since starting a Hip Hook regimen.
This is a small tool that isn’t going to set off alarms at the airport (though a TSA agent did ask me if it was a sex toy) or take up too much space in a weekend bag. As someone who struggles with consistency, this is important, because a week of missing my routine could likely mean the routine is dead by the time I get home.
What’s Not Good About the Hip Hook
It’s weirdly expensive
I appreciate that the tool is useful, very specific, and designed for what is essentially a medical purpose, but $199 is difficult for me to justify unless the pains and mobility issues the product remedies are at the top of your personal list of ailments. The reality is it’s a relatively small and mostly plastic tool molded into a shape that can wedge your hip open a bit. I can’t help but wonder if the Aletha Health’s product wouldn’t be significantly more known and popular if it weren’t so pricey.
There’s a learning curve
My “hack” to get the Hip Hook into the right spot aside, there’s no doubt that using the things isn’t as simple as popping it out of the box and onto a yoga mat. Understand that you’ll need to watch a few Youtube videos and actually read the instruction manual to get anything out of this tool unless you happen to remember a lot from high school anatomy.
Hard to know if you need it
This critique is really the 1B to the high price. If it were say, $75, it would be easier to buy and find out if you really need the kind of relief the Hip Hook provides. But it costs $199, so that’s not feasible.
What’s the best way to tell if your psoas and iliacus need expressing? I’m not a doctor or physical therapist, so I used the company’s “Top 5 Signs You Have a Tight Iliacus” video on its YouTube channel. The video is hosted by the creator of the Hip Hook and physical therapist Christine Koth.
Hip Hook FAQ
1. Do Hip Hooks really work?
The short answer is yes, Hip Hooks work. Tools that target your hip flexors are scarce, and ones that genuinely work even more so, but after months of testing it's clear the Hip Hook is an excellent, albeit pricey, tool to express hip flexors over time.
2. Are Hip Hooks safe?
Yes. It's difficult to imagine a scenario in which the Hip Hook would be unsafe, so long as you're using it as intended. If you've sustained injuries or experience significant pain in the hip flexor area and are worried about trying a Hip Hook, it's wise to consult your doctor or a physical therapist.
3. Why are Hip Hooks so expensive?
There's no clear answer here. At $199, the Hip Hook is significantly more expensive than any alternative, maybe with the exception of an hour of actual physical therapy. The tool doesn't feel cheap in the hand, but ultimately it is simple mix of plastic and metal without any moving parts.
4. How to use a Hip Hook?
Start by lying on your side on a yoga mat or comfortable rug. Then, line the hook up with your nipple, slide it straight down to your hip, and roll onto the hook. From here, you will try your best to relax. If it's the first time you're using the tool, it will be slightly painful initially, but you'll acclimate pretty quickly. Give it 30 seconds.
From here, use your hand to gently press the handle to stretch the muscle group. Fair warning: it will feel weird at first because there is a strong chance you've never touched your iliacus or psoas before (I certainly hadn't). I'll do this for about 5-10 minutes total—30 seconds of stretching followed by a minute break, then back to stretching.
In the consumer market, the Pso-Rite is the Hip Hook’s primary competition. We reviewed the Pso-Rite as well and found it came with similar pros and cons attached. There is a learning curve, it’s difficult to really know if you need it, and it the price feels high. That said, the Pso-Rite is $70—$129 less than the Hip Hook—and its construction feels a bit lesser.
Like the Hip Hook, the Pso-Rite targets the psoas muscles. But I found the Hip Hook made truly stretching the region much more intuitive than the Pso-Rite, which I had a harder time figuring out if I was using correctly. That said, the Pso-Rite is far more versatile than the Hip Hook—there are dozens of stretching movements you can use a Pso-Rite for, while the Hip Hook is far more singular in its design focus.
The Bottom Line
At $199, the price is the product’s biggest flaw. But if you experience regular pain and immobility in your hips, lower back, or glutes it is absolutely worth digging into the Hip Hook. Despite the learning curve associated with the product, it is a genuinely effective at-home remedy for ailments that often require a physical therapist’s attention.