Osteoarthritis is the most frequent cause of musculoskeletal pain worldwide. Osteoarthritis is characterized by painful and sometimes swollen joints, stiffness and increased pain with use and with prolonged sedentary periods. The cartilage lining of the joints erodes and there may be underlying bone changes.
We don’t know the exact cause of hip osteoarthritis but here are some factors that can predispose you to osteoarthritis: age, gender, genetics, body mass index, activity level, weakness, injury, trauma, overall health, dysplasia and metabolic/hormonal problems. Remember, there are always solutions to get hip pain relief including weight loss, physical therapy, strengthening, stretching and nutritional changes. In some cases, total joint replacements are recommended for hip osteoarthritis.
Here are the spots that will likely hurt if you have hip osteoarthritis. If you have one or more of these symptoms, please seek medical attention from a physical therapist or your primary care doctor. (Read my prior blog on How to Find a Good PT.)
The Classic Symptoms of Hip Osteoarthritis
1. Groin pain
My clients with hip osteoarthritis most commonly report pain along the “underwear line” of the hip. In other words, pain right where your underwear sits on the front of your hip. This pain worsens when you bring your knee toward your chest or when you walk too long or uphill.
2. Pain on the side of your hip, buttock, front of the thigh or even into the knee
Groin pain is the most common place for hip pain from hip arthritis. “Hip pain” can also be felt on the side of your pelvis, on your butt, down the front of your thigh and front of your knee. Notice if hip pain worsens when bending the leg toward the chest. This could be a sign of hip osteoarthritis; however, other disorders of the lower back and pelvis can cause these symptoms as well. Get checked out by a physical therapist.
3. Walking with a limp
If you notice that you limp on the side where you have groin pain or hip pain, get it checked out. This can be a sign of osteoarthritis of the hip or other problems in your leg. If you limp more the further you walk or when walking uphill, you may have osteoarthritis in the hip.
If you read my prior blog on knee arthritis, then you already know you can get hip osteoarthritis pain relief by following a few easy steps. If you notice your painful hip is weaker and stiffer and you’re walking funny, it’s time to see a physical therapist. I prescribe similar exercises for my hip osteoarthritis patients whether or not they plan to get total hip replacement. Whether you do surgery or not, going into surgery strong, flexible and walking correctly helps you recover faster with fewer complications. Listed below are the best practices to get hip pain relief from your hip osteoarthritis.
Best Practices for Hip Pain Relief from Hip Osteoarthritis
1. Stop Limping
My clients usually limp into my office on their first appointment and leave with normal gait. Limping is usually an acquired habit that’s mostly ineffective in reducing pain. Limping actually makes everything worse including your hip osteoarthritis and the rest of your leg. Limping creates problems at the lower back, the pelvis, the knee, ankle and foot. Physical therapists can identify the weakness and stiffness patterns related to your limp and painful hip and prescribe exercises to reduce them.
In nearly all cases of hip osteoarthritis, the hip itself is really stiff. This is a huge problem because movement is what actually feeds your hip cartilage the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. As stiffness sets in, the hip moves less, the cartilage gets less nutrients, the cartilage starts to break down, the hip pain sets in, the body becomes stiffer and so it goes. This cycle of stiffness, pain, cartilage break down can be broken by stretching your hip in all directions for 15 minutes each day. This includes knee to chest, heel to butt, rotating the hips in and out and my favorite – sitting with your legs crossed to open the hip.
3. Improve Strength
All the muscles that surround your hip joint provide support to reduce the forces the hip joint incurs during the day. For example, the muscles in your butt, called your gluts, keep the head of your thigh bone centered in the socket of your pelvis. This keeps your hip stable, safe and healthy. Likewise, weakness in any of the muscles surrounding your hip causes imbalance and abnormal forces, which can cause hip pain. Sometimes limping is a sign of muscle weakness. Take time to get evaluated to learn where your weakness is and then DO THE EXERCISES prescribed to get stronger. Most hip pain can be resolved with exercise even in the presence of osteoarthritis.
4. Reduce Inflammation
Osteoarthritis is affected by inflammatory agents in your body. Foods, toxins and chemicals can create an inflammatory environment that aggravates your hip osteoarthritis and other tissues. Start drinking lots of water every day. 60 ounces is a great start. Eliminate inflammatory foods such as processed foods, sugar and fried food. Increase your consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and lean protein. Consider eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Be mindful of the chemicals found in your food, cosmetics, water and household items that may increase inflammation in your body.
As with other body areas, hip osteoarthritis pain can be managed well with exercise, physical therapy, weight management, diet and activity changes. If your hip pain is really getting the best of you, reach out and get help. Don’t despair! There’s so much you can do to feel better and banish that annoying hip pain.
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Good luck with your hips! Keep moving and quit limping!
Sandra Stryker, PT, MPT, COMT, FAAOMPT