Learning The Causes Of Hip Pain

Hip joint pain

The hip joint is unique in that it’s almost always being put to use and bears weight with every step you take. Since it’s constantly moving, the hip joint is the second most commonly affected large joint in the body. The size and the mechanical complexity of the hip joint also makes it prone to injury. Although a ball-and-socket joint provides a wide range-of-motion, there is a trade off between mobility and stability. Due to the lack of stability, ligaments and muscles that surround the joint work to provide stability. However, if there are imbalances with these muscles, they can lead to pain in the area.

With hip pain, it’s important to determine whether the pain is the result of a long-term condition of the joint or an acute injury. Pain could be due to lifestyle, physical injuries, mechanical problems, or a type of musculoskeletal condition. Even the type of shoes you wear can lead to hip pain. Your age, previous injuries, and types of physical activities you engage in all affect your risk for hip pain. In the United States, 7% of all adults report having hip pain. With adults aged 65 or older, about double the amount (15%) report having hip pain throughout the day.

Chronic Hip Pain

Long-term hip pain usually develops due to overuse with repetitive and demanding movements or any past trauma to the joint. If you have tight hip flexors or weak glutes, they are common precursors to chronic hip pain.

There are typically 2 reasons why your muscles may be tight. They may be compensating for weakness elsewhere or they are held in a shortened position for a long period of time. If your job requires you to sit for most of the day, your hip flexors, located in the front of your leg, are in a constant shortened position. Additionally, your glutes are not activated while your are sitting and may not know how to “turn on” when needed.

Your gait can also affect your hip flexors. Many of us over rely on our knees and quads to walk or run and we don’t engage our glutes. For runners who are more quad and hamstring dominant, rather than glute dominant, your body compensates for this imbalance with tightening your hip flexors. Weak glutes causes your hip and pelvis to be off, leading to wear and tear of the hip joint.

Other chronic hip pain conditions include:

If some of these chronic conditions are left untreated, osteoarthritis can develop over time with continuous repeat damage to the cartilage and tendons surrounding the hip joint.


Acute Hip Pain

A sudden pain in the hip is usually the result of a direct physical injury to the hip. Falling or abnormal twisting the hip, among other injuries, can cause intense pain, bruising, or swelling. More severe symptoms of hip pain include:


Identifying The Cause Of Your Hip Pain

During your physical therapy evaluation, your physical therapist will review your medical history and gather specific details around your hip condition such as the location of the pain – can touch or deep within the joint – and when the pain started to occur. Based on your review, your physical therapist will use their hands to pinpoint the painful area. For example, if the pain is related to a muscular issue such as piriformis or snapping hips, they will look for tenderness in the internal hip flexor or external IT band, respectively.

Both manual therapy and guided exercises should be used together for the best treatment outcome. Due to the location of the hip, it is very difficult to do the self-mobilization techniques needed to give your hips full range-of-motion. With the help of your physical therapist, your treatment will begin with passive motions performed by your physical therapist to move your leg and hip and will progress to active exercises you can do at home.

When To Seek Help

If your hip pain affects your general mobility, gait or sleep, you should seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent potential inflammation from getting worse. When it comes to hip pain, it’s important to always consider that there are a wide range of symptoms. Determining whether or not you have acute or chronic pain and how impaired your range of motion is, will help improve and optimize your treatment program. With or without a surgical procedure, incorporating physical therapy into the treatment of hip pain will result in quicker healing, less hip pain, and a reduced risk of future hip pain. The goal of treatment is to allow you to resume your everyday activities unrestricted by your hip pain.

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