If you’ve been through it before, you know what this pain can feel like: hip pain can be limiting, debilitating and can also take time to heal. I’ve broken down the factors at play so that you can hopefully avoid pain in the future, be on your way to healing any injuries faster and look forward to a healthier you with strengthening exercises.

Firstly, How Does The Hip Joint Work?

The ball and socket

Your hip socket is one of the largest joints in your body, helping you move, sit, change directions and walk. It’s where the ball part (of the ‘ball and socket’) of your femur, or thigh bone, connects with the pelvis at a concave surface, or socket (the acetabulum).

And everything else

But that’s not all. A whole team works together for healthy movement and functioning, including major arteries and veins: cartilage surrounds your femur bone and the acetabulum of the pelvis inside around the hip.

You’ve also got a lubricating layer of joint tissue around the hip joint that provides nutrients to the cartilage of the joint. Ligaments, muscles and tendons all help to attach the femur to the pelvis. Bursae, tiny fluid-filled sacs, help muscles and tendons move around the hip joint. Finally, the largest nerve of the body, the sciatic nerve, passes just behind the hip joint.

The way your hip works is carefully orchestrated, and when things get off balance, pain can occur. Here are some common causes of hip pain.

What Can Cause Hip Pain?

With the complicated structure of the ball and socket joint of your hip, there can be a range of causes for hip joint pain. Hip pain can be temporary, or chronic (recurring or constant). Some of the most common causes of hip pain include arthritis (inflammatory, non-inflammatory, infectious), iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome), labral tears, tendonitis, sprain, strain, fracture, bursitis and sciatica. Some less common causes of hip pain include avascular necrosis, cancers, Gaucher’s disease, and hematoma.

What Are Some Hip Pain Symptoms?

Could the hip be the source of your pain? Symptoms will depend on the cause but typical symptoms can include:

  • An atypical feeling of warmth around the hip
  • Difficulty putting weight on the hip (like sleeping on your hip or bending over)
  • Groin pain
  • Hip tenderness
  • Joint pain
  • Limping
  • Loss of mobility around hip region
  • Lower back pain
  • Swelling around and over the hip

Symptoms can vary in intensity from mild to severe. Severe, untreated hip pain can also be debilitating.

So, When Should You Seek Medical Advice?

Hip pain causes can resolve on their own and oftentimes can be managed with a bit of TLC, rest and over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or Ibuprofen. You should seek medical attention if you have:

  • Persistent pain after resting for a week at home
  • Developed a fever or rash
  • Pain that came on quickly and you have sickle cell anaemia
  • Pain in both hips and other joints as well
  • Dislocated your hip
  • Recently had hip replacement surgery

Read: Common Questions to Ask Before Hip Replacement

*Consult with your doctor before taking any medicine.

Diagnosis, Treatment & The Role of Sports Medicine

Health care professionals diagnose hip pain with a physical examination and by reviewing your medical history. During the examination, your doctor may ask you to rotate your hip internally and externally to zero-in on the movements or positions that cause you pain. Tenderness around the hip is usually caused by inflammation – or your body’s natural response to protecting your injured part from further pain.

Your doctor may have you straighten your leg to detect signs of sciatica. Imaging studies, including X-rays and MRI scans, can help further diagnose the origin of hip pain.

Treatment of pain will depend on the cause and can include simple fixes such as rest, avoiding bearing any weight on the injured area, icing and anti-inflammatory medications. Local injection of cortisone medication (steroids) can be used to distill inflammation. If the hip is infected, antibiotics will be used. If your hip pain has progressed to a fracture, your treatment may require surgery, pinning, plates and screws, or total joint replacement. For pain that is caused by severe arthritis, total joint replacement might be prescribed if viable.

Prevention and sports medicine

Hip pain can be prevented by avoiding injuring the hip joint, including related sports injuries. Proper conditioning prior to a sports event can help to prevent hip injury.

What Exercises Help To Relieve Pain And Strengthen Hips?

Medically reviewed muscle-strengthening exercises from a physiotherapist can help relieve hip pain.

Some of my favorites include:

  • Pigeon Hip Stretch
  • Single-Leg Bridges
  • Single-Leg Hip Circles
  • Hip Flexor Stretch & Rotation
  • Standing Hip Flexor Stretch

Once your hip is feeling better, you can introduce low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, instead of running which puts a lot of pressure on your joints. If you do run, run on a smooth, soft surface like grass, or anything other than concrete which is less-forgiving on your joints. Watch out for uneven surfaces that could put you at risk for injury or imbalance.

Avoid activities that may aggravate your hip and make the pain worse, such as downhill running, or weighted squat racks – anything that puts unnecessary strain on your hip and lower back region. Listen to your body and decrease the amount of exercise if it starts to strain your hip. Remember to always warm-up and stretch before and after exercising. Tight, inflexible muscles can lead to injury.

Finally, make sure you have the right gear when you train – your running or exercise shoes should fit well and support your feet properly and be the correct shoe for the exercise you are undertaking. Happy strengthening!

Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s).

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