Your hip joint is one of the world’s greatest engineering feats: a ball and socket joint that allows for fluid movement. This joint also is surrounded by ligaments and is cushioned by cartilage. Most people’s hips can handle a lot of motion throughout their lives and a significant amount of wear and tear.
But lots of people suffer intermittent or chronic hip pain.
Hips can “wear out”. The cartilage that provides cushioning can erode. Muscles can be overused. And of course, the hip bone can be broken, a common occurrence in elderly patients, whose balance may be compromised and whose bones may be weaker due to osteoporosis.
Not all hip pain can be prevented, especially if the cause is injury or a disease process. But hip pain can be mitigated and hip injuries can also be avoided.
Whenever you use the hip (for example, by going for a run), a cushion of cartilage helps prevent friction as the hip bone moves in its socket.
When you experience pain in the hip or related areas (groin, thigh, buttocks), be aware of what makes the pain feel worse or what makes it feel better. Do you experience relief when you cut back on activity or is your hip pain worse after lying down? Try to be tuned into your body so you can do more of whatever provides relief and less of whatever increases your hip pain.
Some of these suggestions may help:
- Maintain an ideal body weight.
- Exercise regularly, but always stretch and warm up prior to exercise and stretch and cool down afterwards.
- If your pain flares up after exercise, particularly running, ease up a bit.
- You can take a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug when you experience pain or even before it comes on, if you know you are going to be using that hip joint a lot (like before shopping errands, travel, football game days, etc.)
- When you sleep, choose a firmer mattress and sleep on the unaffected side with a pillow between your legs. Some people find side sleeping uncomfortable and enjoy more restorative sleep sleeping on their back or on their stomach.
- Hip pain is often caused by inflammation of the joint. For this reason, applying ice for 15 minutes as many times a day as you can tolerate is often quite effective, as ice reduces swelling.
- Elevate your hip when you lie down to recuperate, using pillows.
- Low-impact exercises can aid in flexibility and provide relief. Some of the best choices are yoga, swimming (leisurely or vigorously) and water aerobics.
- Resistance training, especially with body bands, can also help to strengthen weaker muscles surrounding the hips.
- Wear good-fitting shoes all the time, but especially when exercising.
- Runners with hip problems are advised to avoid running on hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt.
Try to take care of your hips and do your part to maintaining this crucial body part. Obviously, if your pain does not abate or is severe or debilitating, contact your health care team immediately.