Introduction to Hip Pain
The hips are the largest joints in the body. Each hip joint consists of a ball and socket which allow for lower body movement. Cartilage provides cushioning for the repetitive motion of the hip joints. With age and continued use, the cartilage can wear out which leads to pain, soreness, and, in some cases, leads to breaks from falls or other traumatic injuries. Hip pain is very common and most people experience it at least once in their lifetime.
The exact location and severity of hip pain helps to determine the underlying cause. If the cause of hip pain is located within the hip joint, it generally result in pain on one side of the hip or groin. If the pain is on the outside of the hip, upper thigh, or outer buttock, then it is most likely caused by strains or tears in the muscles, ligaments, or tendons.
When a hip fracture or dislocation occurs, avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis may occur. This is when the blood flow to the hip bone slows down resulting in the death of bone tissue. Hip pain can be felt in other areas of the body such as inside or outside the hip joint, buttocks, thighs, and groin. Hip pain can also be the result of diseases or conditions related to the lower back. Sometimes, referred pain, pain originating from other parts of the body. can radiate to the hip.
Arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common cause of hip pain in older adults. Arthritis causes inflammation which results in pain. Chronic inflammation eventually breaks down the cartilage that cushions the hip joint. Individuals who experiencing arthritic hip pain often find that the stiffness and pain increase over time resulting in a limping gait.
Occasionally, osteoarthritis may become severe causing the hip joint to become deformed. This typically requires a total hip replacement or arthroplasty. Treatment for hip pain generated from rheumatoid arthritis often includes corticosteroids and anti-rheumatic medications that target the immune system. Additionally, most people suffering from a fracture need surgery to either replace the hip or correct the fracture.
Depending on the severity of hip pain and type of hip pain, at-home treatments may help with the pain.. If the discomfort is minor, alternating ice and heat for 15-minute intervals throughout the day may reduce symptoms. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen may ease the pain.
It's important to avoid sleeping on the affected joint. Prolonged sitting is also discouraged. Properly performed muscle stretches and low-impact exercises can be beneficial. A physician or physical therapist can help an individual determine the appropriate exercises and muscle stretches, depending on the cause of the hip pain.
Individual’s should see a doctor as soon as possible if hip pain occurs suddenly with no known cause or if redness, swelling, or warmth is present around the hip joint. Immediate attention is also needed if a fall or injury results in hip pain, the hip joint becomes deformed, a popping sound is heard when an injury occurs, pain is intense, the leg(s) or hip is immobile, signs of infection are present, or the individual is unable to bear weight on the hip.