Of all the injuries I can think of, a hip fracture puts the most terror into me.
After all, our hips are central to just about any physical activity or movement you can name.
Your hips give you the flexibility to sit, stand, run and get in and out of a car. They support your weight and thus stabilize your body.
Without hip mobility, walking can become impossible. Independence is compromised, and physical activity becomes challenging at best.
But it isn’t just a broken hip that can cause these difficulties. Overuse, injury or disease can also cause hip pain that compromises your independence.
Hip pain can also cause debilitating pain in the lower back and knees because your hips simply cannot bear their share of the weight any longer. Limping from hip pain also causes strain on other joints.
If you are living with hip pain, even if it seems minor, it’s good to know the cause. Here are four possible reasons for hip pain, and the signs of each…
4 reasons for hip pain
Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the result of gradual wear and tear of the cartilage lining the hip joint. It’s the most common cause of hip pain in people over 55.
Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can also affect the hip.
The hip pain of arthritis typically occurs in the groin or outer thigh. It starts slowly, grows worse as you move, but eases when you stop moving. But as the condition progresses, you’ll have pain even when sitting or standing still.
Morning stiffness is another tipoff that your pain could be caused by arthritis.
Bursitis. The bursae are fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction between bones. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae.
Hip bursitis affects the greater trochanteric bursa, which covers the bony protrusion that juts out from the upper part of the thighbone.
An abnormal gait due to arthritis or even a sprained ankle can cause enough pressure and friction to cause bursitis.
If your pain occurs along the outside of the hip, it is likely bursitis, especially if it is tender when pressed on, and if you have a “catching” sensation when moving the joint.
Meralgia paresthetica. With this condition, the nerve that travels from your spine, through your pelvis and upper thigh is compressed, due to obesity, too-tight clothing or scar tissue from a past surgery. People with diabetes are more likely to develop this condition.
Numbness, tingling or burning pain over the upper outer thigh could be a sign of meralgia paresthetica.
Referred pain. As mentioned earlier, the hip, lower back, and knees are related because they all bear our weight.
Referred pain is pain felt in one part of the body that originates in another part. Sometimes, hip pain is referred from pain in the lower back or knees.
A herniated disc in the back, as well as a slipped disc or a compressed nerve in the spine, can cause pain in the hip.
In fact, hip and spine problems often go together. In a 2018 study, nearly 54 percent of older people with chronic lower back pain had at least one hip pain symptom.
If your hip pain is accompanied by a “pins and needles” feeling in the back, buttocks or legs, it’s a good sign you’re dealing with referred pain.
How to care for your hips
Clearly, if you’re still mobile and your hips are healthy, now is the time to protect them from future problems. They can make the difference between independence and dependence, between a pain-free life and a life where pain is the norm.
Get enough physical activity. At least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (walking, dancing or even housework), or 75 minutes of high-intensity activity like running or fitness classes, is recommended.
Don’t sit all day. It tightens your hip flexors, making your back muscles work overtime to keep you upright. If you work at a desk, schedule times throughout your day when you’ll get up and walk around.
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight will put a strain on all your joints, starting with your hips.
Yoga and tai chi. The article Strike a pose for a supple pain-free body offers some yoga poses that promote flexibility and mobility. And Dr. Mark Wiley’s article Drawing the circle: Tai chi exercise for a supple waist, and low back and leg flexibility takes us through a tai chi exercise that can help with lower back and leg flexibility.
Editor’s note: If you suffer from chronic pain and conventional medicine has let you down, or you just want to escape the potential dangers of OTC and prescription drugs even for occasional pain, you must read Conquering the Pain: An Alternative Doctor’s Fresh Look at the Newest and Oldest in Alternative Pain Therapies. Click here for a preview!
- Dealing with Hip Pain — Berkeley Wellness
- Hip Symptoms, Physical Performance, and Health Status in Older Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Preliminary Investigation — Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation