Unless you’re J.Lo or Shakira, you’re probably not inclined to worry about your hips until reaching 50.
But the truth is, hip problems can affect anyone, from children to young adults, the elderly, even cats and dogs, dancers and superstars like Billy Joel, Steven Tyler and Elizabeth Taylor.
A study predicts that hip replacement surgeries in the US could balloon to 500,000 in 2030, making it as common as a vasectomy procedure.
Don’t be a part of that statistic. Let’s put the hip in hip pain relief by understanding the early signs of hip troubles, its possible causes and the simple self-care tips you can do at home.
How does the hip work?
Located on each side of the pelvis, the hip is a ball-and-socket joint that allows for lower body movement and provides stability to carry our body weight.
The hip joint is formed by the attachment of the ball-shaped bone, called the femoral head, at the top of the thigh (also known as the femur) to the hollow socket (acetabulum) inside the pelvis. Completing the largest joint in our body part are the attached tendons, ligaments and cartilage.
Like elastic bands, ligaments keep the bone in place while the muscles around the joint expand and contract, causing it to move. Cushioning the bones is the articular cartilage, located at the surfaces of this ball and socket joint, which allows for smooth movement even if the bones move against each other.
Muscles and tendons — strong strands of tissues that keep the muscles secure to the bones — form a capsule around the joint, keeping its mobility and moving the hip joint to support the leg and upper body movement. The joint cavity holds the synovial fluid, which provides nutrients to the joints and cartilage and lubricates to the point of almost eliminating friction in the hip joint.
All this support makes the hip a very stable and strong joint. But because it bears our body weight and is responsible for a wide range of movement, it can succumb to injuries and deterioration over time.
What are the signs of a hip problem?
Contrary to popular belief, hip problems are not exclusive to the elderly. As with other joints, our hips can get worn and injured, too, and this is especially true with high-impact sport athletes.
Experiencing pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Pain in the hip and other forms of hip issues may be caused by repeated or sudden trauma to the bones, muscles, tendons or the small fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that cushion and lubricate the joints.
Depending on the underlying cause of the hip problem, pain can be felt in the outer hip, groin or upper thigh and the knees.
Suspect a hip problem if you experience few of these symptoms:
1. Hip pain or groin pain
One of the early signs of a hip problem is a pain that’s localized between the hip and the knee and felt during everyday movements such as walking, exercising or while sleeping. In some cases, hip problems not only cause pain but a loss of hip motion, too.
In the case of hip arthritis, the discomfort usually appears during or after exercise.
2. Pain in the buttocks
As a degenerative disease, hip osteoarthritis is closely associated with aging. It’s most common symptom is pain around the hip joint, groin, thigh, buttocks and knee. As the sensitivity of the surrounding nerves develop, the pain is usually followed by low-grade inflammation and difficulty walking.
3. Hip stiffness
One of the ways to identify hip stiffness is when you can no longer perform simple tasks such as bending down to pick something up from the ground or putting on your shoes.
4. A popping sensation in the hip
Because of tendon inflammation, a popping, clicking or grinding sound from your hip joints may accompany your impaired range of movement. This condition is also known as snapping hip syndrome.
5. Difficulty standing up
Apart from the usual pain along the hip, try the one-leg test to further investigate a hip problem. Seek the balance and support of a door frame or table top and try standing up. If you can’t stand on your affected leg for over a minute, you might have a hip problem.
Walking difficulties can be caused by various conditions, such as arthritis, bone and muscle injuries and other diseases that affect the central nervous system. But because our hip joint is responsible for a wide range of movement, among them standing up and walking, limping could signal an undiagnosed hip problem.
7. Hip joint swelling and tenderness
Hip injuries, gout and arthritis may lead to swollen and tender hip joints. Swelling may be in the internal or external portion of your hip.
In most instances, inflammation is accompanied by hip pain and stiffness, leading to a limited range of movement or pain with every movement.
8. Unstable hip joint
Unequal leg length, a loose hip joint, pain and limping are the most telling signs of a hip problem called hip dysplasia. This congenital and sometimes hereditary condition occurs when the pelvic socket is not deep enough to keep the femoral head in place.
Because the femoral head does not fit to the socket, the cartilage is damaged, leading to joint pain, instability and weakness.
For reasons such as genetic predisposition and excessive growth rate, dogs can get hip dysplasia, too. Large breed canines like German Shepherds, Saint Bernards and Great Danes are more vulnerable due to their size.
In some instances, pain from the other parts of your body, such as the back, can extend to the hip. Spine and lower back problems can also lead to hip discomfort.
How to treat hip pains at home
Some, if not most, cases of hip pain are not a major cause for concern and can be alleviated by self-care measures at home.
As long as it’s not from a fracture, you can address mild to moderate hip pain through the following home remedies:
- Rest – Keeping pressure and weight off your hip will help it relax and temporarily ease the pain. As much as possible, avoid sitting for long periods, bending and laying on the side of your injured hip. Running and jumping are likewise discouraged.
- Apply cold packs – Banish hip pains for good with this highly-recommended product. Designed by an orthopedist, this hip ice pack gives you the most satisfying, convenient and longest-lasting cooling experience, all for a price that won’t burn your pocket.
Apply cold packs to the hip for 15 minutes on and off several times a day to reduce swelling and pain.
Known for its analgesic properties, ice numbs the pain and calms flare-ups, as in the case of hip arthritis. However, cold therapy can also cause tissue and muscle stiffness. A warm compress eases tight muscles and chronically stiff joints.
For hip bursitis, experts suggest exclusively icing to reduce inflammation, numbing the pain that goes with it.
Before icing your hip, remember to wrap the ice pack with a thin cloth or towel.
- Stretches for your hip pain – Hip pain attributed to bursitis, strain and pinched nerves can benefit from gentle stretches. Hip flexor and butterfly stretches, the pigeon pose and yoga squats are a few of the stretches you can do to help ease your hip pain. Warm-up before performing them to avoid injuries.
- Exercises for your hips – Once your discomfort eases, start performing light exercises such as gentle squats, knee lifts and hip rotations. These exercises not only relieve pain but can also strengthen muscles and increase mobility, preventing hip pain from recurring.
- Pain relievers – Over the counter medicines such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen sodium may help relieve hip pain and inflammation.
As with other symptoms, it is best to consult with your physician if these first aid measures fail to address your discomfort.
What are the possible causes of hip pain?
- Osteoarthritis – This inflammation of the hip joint due to cartilage breakdown causes hip pain and stiffness.
- Bone tumors or cancer – Bone tumors cause pain in all bony parts of the body, hips included.
- Bursitis – Liquid sacs located between bone, muscle and tendon tissues, called the bursa, ease friction. Pain is what you’ll get when these sacs get inflamed due to overuse or sudden trauma.
- Dislocation – Apart from congenital bone disorders, a sudden and forceful impact, such as a car accident, could cause hip dislocation. When bones slide out of place, it usually means a serious injury, and medical intervention is needed.
- Dysplasia – Because the femoral head and socket do not fit together as it should, the cartilage becomes damaged, leading to an unstable joint or dislocation.
- Fracture – Another serious hip problem that results from an injury or in adult patients with osteoporosis, hip fractures can be treated via hip repair or replacement.
- Hip impingement – Similar to hip dysplasia, hip impingement is caused by a deformity to either the ball or socket of the hip joint (or both). As a result, the bones rub against each other during movement, leading to groin pain and decreased hip motion.
- Hip labral tear – The cartilage that lines the hip joint socket, called the labrum, cushions the joint and holds the thigh bone within the hip socket. Repetitive twisting movements of the hip joint may cause labral tears.
- Hip muscle and tendon strain – Ligaments, muscles and tendons can be strained with repetitive stress or overuse. Strains cause mild to moderate pain and limited hip movement.
- Osteonecrosis – This condition is caused by limited blood flow to the bones that results in cell death and bone collapse.
- Snapping hip syndrome – A snapping sensation happens when a muscle or tendon moves over a bony protrusion in your hip. A hip labral tear may also count an inaudible pop as one of its symptoms.
- Tendonitis – Inflamed, swollen and irritated tendons surrounding the hip joint can lead to a great amount of pain.
When to see a doctor
If home treatments did nothing to alleviate your hip discomfort, your hip worries are likely serious and need medical intervention. Watch out for these signs:
- A deformed hip joint
- Loss of hip or leg movement
- Severe and sudden pain and/or swelling
- Fever and other symptoms of infection
- Pain in multiple joints
- Pain caused by an injury or a fall
While stable and tough, our hips will eventually give way to constant pressure and normal wear and tear.
Being hip means knowing the early signs of hip troubles and recognizing when to seek medical intervention and when home remedies, like ice packs, fail to relieve pain and discomfort.
Have you tried using hip ice packs for your hip problems? Do you need help or have questions about our products? Share your thoughts with us here.