An introduction to hip pain
Many people experience pain in their hip. Your hip is the largest ball and socket joint in your body, which allows a large range of movement. It is used almost every time you move. To protect the joint, there is a layer of cartilage between the bones to cushion impact and prevent friction.
Despite the durability of this joint, its wide range of motions and the fact that it bears so much stress and weight means that it is still easily hurt. This most often occurs through injury or wear and tear.
What causes hip pain?
Your hip joint undergoes a lot of use and stress. This makes it susceptible to a variety of problems. It is important to identify the root of your hip pain, as only then can an effective solution be found.
Every time your hip joint moves, the cartilage between the joints is worn away a little further. Eventually with age or repeated stress such as if you run a lot on hard surfaces, this cartilage ceases to provide sufficient protection to the joints. The bones begin to rub causing pain in the joint.
Normally, a small amount of fluid is secreted into the hip joint which allows the joint to move smoothly. However, if there is any increased fluid or inflammation, this increases the pressure on the joint as there is not enough space in the joint for the swelling. This is also going to cause pain in your hip.
Hip pain can also be a symptom of a fractured hip. This is more common in older people as their bones tend to thin a little and become weaker. It is common in sufferers of osteoporosis or after a fall.
There are many types of arthritis, but osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of hip pain. It tends to cause inflammation in the joint or bony growths as well as wearing away of the cartilage. It is most common in women over 50, although it affects men too. Osteoarthritis often leads to hip replacements being necessary.
Hip pain may be referred from another point of the body, most often the back. Osteoarthritis can give rise to pain in the lower back or lumbago, or it may feel as if you have suffered a muscle strain in your hip. If you cannot find an obvious cause of hip pain, it is worth having your back examined to check for a problem there.
What are the symptoms of hip pain?
It is important to analyse your symptoms because this will give you the strongest indication as to the cause of your problem. Pain can be felt in very different ways depending on the person and their type of problem. Any other symptoms such as bruising or stiffness will also be indications as to the cause of the hip pain.
For any type of traumatic injury such as a fracture, the pain will be felt immediately. It is likely to be a sharp searing pain and you will find it painful to move or bear any weight. Some swelling or bruising may develop and in severe cases where a bone has been displaced, you may notice a little deformity. It will also be tender to touch.
For degenerative conditions such as arthritis, pain will initially be intermittent. You may feel pain for a couple of days or weeks, and then experience no pain for months, before the pain returns again. Over time, the pain will become more frequent and more severe, and you will also experience stiffness in the joint.
How can I prevent hip pain?
There are some steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of your developing hip problems.
It is important to reduce the risk of wear and tear on your joints. This can be done by avoiding spending a long time running or pounding on hard or uneven surfaces. It is also important to wear good trainers when exercising as these will absorb some of the impact that your hip would otherwise have to endure.
Maintaining a good posture is important for your general joint wellbeing. It will help reduce your chances of developing back problems which may refer pain into your hip. It is also worth avoiding certain motions, such as squatting, which will aggravate the problem.
It is worth remembering too that certain elements of your lifestyle will increase your chances of developing hip pain, and other health problems. Being overweight increases the pressure on your joints, as well as other vital muscles and organs. Smoking too increases your pain and sensitivity sensors, making you more likely to experience severe symptoms. Smoking is also likely to result in increased cartilage loss, creating your hip pain.
What treatments are there for hip pain?
The most effective treatment for your hip pain depends on what is causing your joint pain. The first step towards recovery is to correctly identify the cause of your problem, and often this will need a medical examination.
If you have suffered a trauma injury, then you may need to have an x-ray or an MRI scan to identify if and where you have fractured the joint. Only then can an appropriate treatment be found. For a hip fracture it is likely that you will have to undergo surgery to correct any damage.
For degenerative or long-term conditions such as arthritis, then you will need to work with your doctor or medical advisor to effectively treat your problem. Your doctor may refer you to a further medical professional such as a physiotherapist to help ease your symptoms.
Many people find relief from complementary medicine such as acupuncture. This is a type of therapy which involves inserting small needles into the body at specific trigger points, which may alleviate your symptoms.
As well as this, herbal remedies may be used. Arnica gel can be applied externally to the site of pain. It has anti-inflammatory and pain-killing properties which will ease your symptoms. Devil’s claw is taken internally for general joint pain. It is not as fast acting as arnica gel and so is effective for long term conditions such as arthritis.