Many people in the United States experience hip pain on a daily basis. The hip joint is unique in that it’s almost always being put to use. 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 makes it more prone to injury. Many painful conditions can affect the hip itself or the ligaments and muscles surrounding the joint.
Hip Pain Signs & Symptoms
With hip pain, it’s important to determine whether the pain is the result of an acute injury or a long-term condition of the joint. Pain could be due to physical injuries, mechanical problems, or a type of musculoskeletal condition. 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.
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:
• Inability to put weight on the hip
• Inability to move the hip in a normal manner
Any acute injuries could result in fractures, inflammation, or injury to the tissues surrounding the hip.
Long-term pain of the hip usually develops because of overuse with repetitive and demanding movements or any past trauma to the joint. Any hip pain is considered chronic if it has been present for over 2 or 3 months.
Depending on the severity, chronic hip pain may present as:
• Constant ache
• Sharp pain or stiffness when moving the joint
• Dull burning sensation
• Some may experience chronic swelling, or pain when hip is touched
Common chronic conditions of the hip such as osteoarthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis are mainly the result of the daily wear-and-tear. Degenerative joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis, develop over time as with continuous repeat damage to the cartilage and tendons surrounding the hip joint. Osteoarthritis itself is the most common of the more than 100 types of chronic arthritis.
Does Hip Pain Need Surgery?
Hip surgery depends on the severity and type of the condition. For sudden injuries (i.e. torn cartilage or ligaments), surgery may be a better option to repair mechanical instability in the hip. In other cases, the injury may be inflammatory in which case surgery is less helpful. Those with chronic hip pain that severely impacts their day-to-day life can also consider hip replacement, which replaces the joint with an artificial joint. About 97% of hip replacements are due to hip fractures because of osteoarthritis. Depending on far your osteoarthritis has progressed, surgery might be a better option in some cases. Other times, physical therapy for chronic hip pain can be just as effective at restoring movement and decreasing pain.
Whether undergoing surgery or not, managing the symptoms of hip pain with rest, pain relievers, and physical therapy is necessary. For most people, physical therapy is a good place to start their treatment course, especially if symptoms aren’t severe. Your physical therapist can refer you to an orthopedic surgeon if surgery is necessary for your condition.
Physical Therapy Recovery
Whatever the cause of your hip pain, using physical therapy as part of your treatment can have a dramatic effect on your long-term recovery. Physical therapy is proven reduce the need for surgery in patients, decrease pain, and improve mobility in pre- and post-surgery patients. Both manual therapy and guided exercise should be used for the best treatment outcomes. Patients with hip osteoarthritis who receive manual therapy along with their treatment program have better improvements with pain, stiffness, motion, and function.
• Manual therapy: Increase mobility and tissue healing for irritated structures around the hip which are preventing proper movement.
• Oriented muscle mobilizations: Manual manipulations or glides (small and specific movements) stretch and strengthen the tissue around your hip joint. The goal is to restore the full range of your hips natural movement (i.e. range of motion and external/internal rotation of the hip).
• Custom exercises: To strengthen the muscles that support and protect the hip to increase functional movement and decrease risk of further injury.
When To Seek Treatment
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.