Your hips are literally at the center of your life. Not only are they located in the middle of your body, but you also count on them to hold you steady and give you the range of motion you need to keep up with the demands of a busy, active lifestyle.
The hip is the largest weight-bearing joint in the body, supporting three times the body's weight with each step. Orthopaedic surgeon John Noble, Jr., MD, with the Center for Orthopaedics, says that hip pain is becoming more common. "As active baby boomers get older and their hips start to show signs of wear and tear, we are seeing more and more patients with hip pain complaints. Remember, this was the generation of Americans who really gave their hips a workout - from the hula hoop, boogie woogie and the twist, not to mention the 'let's get physical' exercise boom that began in the 1980s. Active individuals are wanting to maintain their level of activity as they age, but their hips often protest with pain and stiffness."
At the opposite end of the spectrum, are the inactive people. "Being physically inactive weakens the hip muscles and puts you at increased risk of osteoporisis," explains Dr. Noble.
He says hip pain can have many causes, ranging from arthritis or bursitis to strained muscles or tendonitis. "Not all of these are serious, and there are steps you can take on your own to ease pain and keep the muscles and joints of the bone strong."
Dr. Noble offers these suggestions for moving past hip pain:
- 1. Lose Weight. Getting rid of excess body weight can help to relieve the strain on your hips. As you get older, it becomes more difficult for your muscles to offset your increased weight. As a result, your joints bear more and more load, and they degenerate. Research shows that for every pound you lose, you take two to three pounds of pressure off your hips.
- 2. Relieve pain. Non-prescription anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and can reduce the swelling and ease the hip pain caused by arthritis, and other muscle or joint injuries.
- 3. Use ice. Ice is the first line of defense against hip pain. Never put ice directly on the skin. Use a towel between the ice pack and your skin, and for the hip joint, you'll need some form of ice pack that has a wide surface area. Apply the ice at the site of pain for 15 - 20 minutes, as often as every one to two hours.
- 4. Use heat. Heat can help relax tight, stiff muscles and improve circulation after an injury. However, do not use heat during the first 48 hours after an injury occurs. After that, you can alternate heat and ice applications. Heat can be applied with a heating pad or a hot towel.
- 5. Be patient. If you have injured your hip, it is going to take some time for it to heal, especially if you have injured a muscle.
- 6. Take it easy. Don't place too many demands on an aching hip. In general, avoid activities that aggravate your pain until you recover.
- 7. Use support. When you try to avoid bearing weight on your sore hip, you can easily strain muscles and tendons in other areas, so don't hesitate to use a cane or walker for support and stability. Be sure it is the right size for your height, or it may increase your hip pain rather than relieving it. Your doctor or a medical supply store should be able to help you properly measure a cane or walker.
- 8. Adjust your movements. If you want your hip to recover, you may need to adjust how you move. For example, when getting out of a car, lift and swing both legs out of the door before standing, and stand with both legs at the same time. By rotating on your rear instead of twisting your pelvis, you will lessen the strain on your hips.
- 9. Gentle exercise. Water aerobics and yoga are great exercises that will keep your hip limber. Water takes the weight off your hip and allows you to do more without pain than you could on dry land. If you suffer from chronic hip pain, yoga can also enhance flexibility.
Dr. Noble says that if pain persists, or worsens, you should contact an orthopaedic specialist for further evaluation to determine the exact cause of your pain and an appropriate treatment recommendation. "Very often, pain in the hip joint does not come from a hip problem, but from another area, such as your back. In addition, while we have many non-surgical treatment options to offer, certain hip problems can be very effectively treated with surgery. There have been many advances in surgical techniques for hip surgery and hip joint replacement in recent years that dramatically reduce recovery time and provide long-lasting results."