Anatomically, your hips are the key to moving and walking around. Your hips are the site where your thigh bones join with your pelvis. The actual hip is a ball and socket joint. The ball (the top of your thigh or femur) is called the femoral head. The femoral head lies within the acetabulum, which is the socket in your pelvis. Ligaments connect the femoral head to the socket.
The hip area, in addition to the ligaments, also has a thin membrane (the synovium), which lubricates the joint.
Outside the bone structure, the hip joint is surrounded by large muscles (the largest in the human body) including your “glutes”, your quadriceps, your hamstrings, muscles that connect to the inner thigh and another set of muscles that connect to your lower back.
Servicing all of these muscles and joints are an intricate network of nerves and blood vessels.
In short, your hips are essential: they are truly the core of your body.
But hips are prone to problems, particularly as we age and if we subject the joints to overuse.
Some of the causes and related symptoms of hip pain are:
- Osteoarthritis (pain and stiffness, often worse after periods of inactivity)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (pain and swelling at the hip joints)
- Ankylosing spondylitis (very commonly affects the hip joints)
- Lupus (inflammation of the joints as well as organ systems)
- Lyme disease (caused by a tick bite)
- Sciatica (a sharp, shooting pain down the lower back, hip and leg to the foot, often caused by a compression in the vertebrae)
Hip pain can be addressed in multiple ways:
- Physical Therapy to help build strength and endurance in order to maintain the flexibility and stability of your spine
- Medication, including anti-inflammatory drugs
- Steroids (oral or injected)
- Chiropractic adjustment and treatment
- Massage therapy
- Pain psychology to deal with other issues that can worsen pain like life stressors, anxiety and depression
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), which utilizes electrical stimulation of muscle tissue to relieve pain
- Surgical intervention, including total joint replacement (indicated when the joint is severely degraded, typically from arthritis or injury)
- Walking aids like a cane or walker.
Hips are a crucial working component of our bodies. It’s important to understand how they function, what can cause pain in the hips as well as some non-surgical and surgical methods of relieving hip pain.
Next week: How to prevent hip pain