You use your hips for a number of daily activities. In fact, most everything you do (from walking to sitting to performing household chores) involves the use of your hips in some fashion.
That means that if you’re suffering from chronic hip pain, you’re likely engaging in an activity that is causing you even more discomfort as it is likely aggravating this already sore area.
So, what can you do for relief? How do you deal with the constant annoyance of either a dull ache or downright pain in the hip area? Like you do with anything else that isn’t working properly, you have to find the problem before you can find the solution.
Causes of Chronic Hip Pain
Before you can look at ways to ease your discomfort or pain, you have to understand what is causing you the hip problem to begin with. Some major contributing factors may include:
The older you get, the less cartilage you have in your hip joints to protect them from injury. Also, the process of aging increases your risk of contracting certain hip irritating conditions, such as arthritis.
If you’re engaged in a job or hobby that requires repetitive use of your hip joints, you’re increasing the likelihood that you’ll suffer from inflammation issues like bursitis (which affects the small fluid-filled bursae in your hips), tendonitis (irritation of the tendons around the hip area), and muscle strain.
Slip and falls on ice, stairs or any other uneven or slippery surface often result in hip fractures or breaks. However, athletes can also experience stress fractures due to high impact exercises that involve repeated usage of the hips (like as in marathon runners).
Other medical conditions
Bone cancer can result in a tremendous amount of pain in your hips, as does a condition called osteonecrosis. Osteonecrosis involves the death of hip bone tissue due to not enough blood flow to the affected area and is often the result of an injury such as a dislocation or fracture. However, it can also be caused by repeated usage of steroids that are extremely strong.
Childhood hip issues
Some children are predisposed to hip issues. For example, developmental dysplasia involves hips that are dislocated or not developed properly in infants and Perthes disease is essentially osteonecrosis for little ones.
If you have lower back pain or spinal issues, you may feel it in your hip area. Some common back issues that lead to this type of expanded pain are herniation of the discs and sciatica.
No matter what your particular cause, the symptoms aren’t easy to ignore. You often feel the tension in your thigh, groin area, buttocks, and all around the hip joint which makes it extremely difficult to do much of anything without some sort of discomfort. Your range of motion is limited and ordinary daily activities can be hard to endure. However, there are some things you can do to make the pain less severe and therefore more manageable.
One thing to keep in mind when you consider the following alternatives is that some work better for chronic hip pain that results from repetitive use, whereas others will ease the discomfort that you feel with age related hip issues. So, you’ll want to remember this when considering which treatment plan is the best for you and fits your specific needs.
If you try one of the suggested remedies and don’t find any relief, don’t give up and think that pain is just going to be a way of life for you. Simply try something else and see if your body responds to that any better. No treatment is suitable for everyone so it may take some trial and error to find the one thing that your body likes best.
Also, this list is not all inclusive, but it will at least give you a place to start as these are the top seven treatments available when it comes to hips that are plagued with pain. With that being said, let’s consider your alternatives:
Over the Counter Pain Medication
This is one of the simplest options you have when it comes to finding relief from hips that constantly feel achy and sore. You can go to most any pharmacy or chemist and buy something right off the store shelf that will work to make the pain more manageable.
Some people prefer aspirin and other always choose ibuprofen. Each one can be just as effective, it just depends on your personal preference. And, if that is all you need to do to relieve yourself from some suffering then it is a low-cost and easy-to-manage viable option for you.
Sometimes over the counter pain medication is not strong enough or doesn’t include the right ingredients to soothe your hips and make them feel better. In that case, a medical doctor may prescribe you a medication that will do the job.
Steroids are often used in this circumstance as they attack the problem area quite quickly and effectively. And, if your pain stems from arthritis, for instance, there are also several different anti-rheumatic drugs available that can make life more tolerable. Essentially, any medication that helps “cure” the root cause of the pain is beneficial when it comes to lowering the pain levels that you’re experiencing.
Ice and Heat Application
When your hips are sore, it may help to apply ice and/or heat to the affected area to reduce the inflammation and lessen the pain. How do you know which one to use?
If the area that hurts is inflamed due to a recent injury (like a sprain) or is swollen, you’ll want to stick to ice. However, if you’re trying to reduce chronic pain with no actual new damage due to a slip and fall, for instance, then moist heat would be the best application as it relaxes the area and encourages more blood flow.
Whichever application is appropriate for you, limit it to 20 minute sessions. Also, you’ll want to be careful not to apply either too hot or cold of a compress to your skin as you risk frostbite or burns, causing more pain to an already sensitive area.
It may help if you can improve your range of motion in the hip area and a great way to do just that is via some easy to perform soothing stretches. Just make sure you engage in slow, conscious movements on both sides of your body (even if the pain is only on one side) to get the greatest advantage. Also, avoid bouncing or jerky movements so that you don’t make the problem or pain worse than it already is.
Some great stretches to include in your daily routine are:
The hip flexor
Using a chair, stand with your left knee and lower leg (shin) lying in the seat of the chair and use your left arm to hold onto the back. Stay upright and slowly bend your right knee, shifting your body weight forward. Keep your back straight and tighten your glutes (your butt muscles) for a stronger pull.
The reverse pigeon
This yoga move involves lying on your back, with your knees bent and the soles of your feet placed firmly on the floor. Cross your right ankle onto the left knee, keeping your right ankle flexed. Lift your left foot off the floor and reach between your legs to grab your left shin to pull your knees closer to your chest, thereby stretching your right hip area. (The attached video also shows you a couple ways to vary the exercise for a deeper stretch once you’re more flexible in the hip area.)
The side bend
This stretch is performed by lying on your right side. Rest your head on your right arm and bring your knees up to right angles as if you were sitting in a chair. Place your left fingers on your waist muscles, between your ribs and hip bones. Keep your knees together and lift your right foot, making it move upward and inward.
(You should feel the stretch in your waist muscles, underneath your fingers.) Now, lift your head a couple of inches and then lower it, feeling the contraction yet again.
Once you can perform both of these moves and bring about the proper contractions, remove your fingers from your waist area and use them to help lift your head, lifting your head and foot at the same time as you exhale.
Low Impact Exercise
Certainly, you don’t want to engage in exercise that is high in intensity as you’ll likely aggravate the hip area and do more damage than good. However, a little light physical activity will help keep your joints more limber and make everyday activities easier to sustain.
The reason exercise is so beneficial is two-fold. First, it increases your range of motion. It keeps your hip area flexible and allows you to move with greater ease. Second, it also increases the strength of your muscles which ultimately help to support the surrounding bones and joints. Thus, the greater your muscle fitness in this particular area, the less pain you’ll likely feel.
Some exercises that you may want to consider are walking, stationary biking and swimming. Some people even find that they benefit from cross country skiing if you live in a region where this is an option.
Each one is low impact and won’t create a lot of tension in your hips. The key is to be consistent and engage in the exercise often – preferably daily. It’s not going to do you much good if you only move the affected area once or twice a month as stiffness will certainly set in.
Just remember that if the exercise makes the pain worse, stop immediately. This is one case where you don’t want to push through the pain as you can injure yourself and make matters much worse.
While most any low impact exercise is beneficial, directed and specific motions that are done with a physical therapist can be even better. A person with medical training knows what types of actions are necessary to help you relieve the pain while increasing your mobility and flexibility at the same time.
You may want to ask your family doctor who he or she recommends as they’ll likely have someone that they prefer to work with in regard to these types of issues. And, if you get a referral then your insurance may pick up some or all of the costs which is an added bonus.
Hip Replacement Surgery
If you try all other alternatives and nothing works for you, then a total hip replacement may be your only option of stopping the chronic pain that you feel on a daily basis. You may also be recommended for a replacement if your hip is deformed, you have bone tumors or you fractured it and the only way to fix it correctly is to totally replace it.
Thanks to medical advances, hip replacement surgery is not as big of an issue as it used to be. Most people spend anywhere from three to five days in the hospital after this type of operation and are completely functional after 3-6 months. Of course, the better your health is beforehand and the amount of time and effort you put into your recovery have a huge effect on where you fall in that post-surgery range.
Just as with any surgery, though, there are risks. Some of them, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, include:
This can occur because the replacement hips are generally smaller than your normal and natural ones, letting the ball come out of the socket much more easily when you engage in certain movements.
Adverse reaction to the artificial hip
Sometimes your body may not take well to the artificial hip and cause swelling and pain. It can also result in cells destroying the bone, thus loosening the hip. There are medications to help with this, or the doctor may have to replace the joint to ease the pain.
Any surgery that involves cutting into your body has a risk of infection and hip replacement is no exception.
This too is a risk factor to most operations and one that your doctor will certainly take care to avoid. That is why they often have special recommendations or considerations for anyone that takes any sort of blood altering medication or has any known blood diseases prior to the surgery.
Bone growth beyond the normal bone
Although rare, you could endure this type of issue after hip replacement surgery. In this case, further medical intervention may be needed to correct the problem.
All of these are viable treatment options depending on the severity of your pain and whether it can be reduced by non-invasive methods or not. However, no matter which method or methods you choose to try, you need to understand when medical intervention is absolutely necessary.
When to Seek Immediate Medical Treatment
If you’re engaged in treatment of any sort, whether it be self-prescribed or under doctor’s orders, there may come a time when you need to seek immediate medical attention. Although most of us like to be our own doctor in an attempt to save hassle and money, you can’t (and shouldn’t) always take your medical needs and keep them in your own hands.
If you experience any of the following, you’re going to want to seek medical treatment as soon as possible:
- Pain that comes on rapidly or is extremely intense; this includes when you’re just resting
- You fall or otherwise cause injury to your hip that results in pain (especially if you heard a popping noise when it occurred)
- Your hip area doesn’t look right (like it could be out of place) or it is bleeding
- Your hip cannot sustain your body weight when you walk
- You notice redness, swelling or warmth in the hip area as this may be sign of infection
When you have chronic hip pain, it can make ordinary, everyday activities difficult and, sometimes, impossible. And, although there are many causes for the discomfort or shooting pain, ranging from age to overuse to aggravating medical conditions, you have several treatment options available.
Some at-home treatment methods include over the counter pain medications, ice and heat application, stretching, and low impact exercises. Doctor involved pain management may come in the form of prescribed medications, physical therapy, and even hip replacement. It all depends on the cause and intensity of the pain as to which option is best for you and your situation.
The key point to remember is that you do have alternatives so keep trying different ones until you find the one that works best for you. It may even take a combination to find your ultimate relief. For instance, you may notice that you feel the best when you engage in daily low impact exercises and stretches, followed by over the counter medication when the pain flares up.
Don’t be sidelined by chronic hip pain. Try any or all of these and you get yourself back in the game.