As the joints that connect the upper and lower body and enable most of your basic movements, the hips carry a heavy load. That’s why it’s not a big surprise that the hips are prone to a wide range of injuries and age-related conditions that can hamper your mobility and cause significant pain. Whether you want to work in the yard, get in a round of golf, or even just sit peacefully and read a book, hip pain can be a major obstacle to your quality of life.
Although there are a wide range of causes for hip pain, there are some common steps to finding the long-term relief you deserve. To help, we’re happy to share this basic guide to get anyone started on their pain relief journey.
Understanding the basics of hip pain
The hips are ball and socket joints that connect the pelvis to both of the legs. There is a complex arrangement of muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue that stabilize the hips and enable movement and flexibility in the hips. However, because the hips are under such a high level of stress and pressure every day, they are at a risk for developing potentially painful conditions and injuries, including:
- Nerve compression
Hip pain itself can be caused by direct injuries like strains, sprains, and tendonitis. In some cases, like arthritis or bursitis, pain is related to inflammation and stiffness causing aches and pains. In other situations, the source of pain can be harder to identify. This is why it is so important to receive a diagnosis from a medical professional.
Step One: Diagnose the Cause of Your Hip Pain
To receive the right treatment for hip pain, it is critical to find the correct cause. For hip pain, this can be notoriously difficult to diagnose, and sometimes there can be multiple problems occurring at once. Doctors typically take the following steps to diagnose hip pain:
- Review medical history
- Ask questions about symptoms and how they are affecting your life
- Perform a full physical examination, including specific movement tests
- Order diagnostic tests, including X-ray, MRI, CT scan, and nerve blocks
There are some conditions that cause hip pain, or pain that feels like hip pain, that actually originate in other locations, including the sacroiliac joint or even the lumbar spine. This is why receiving a precise diagnosis for your condition is critical.
Step Two: Pursue Conservative Treatment Options
For many patients, the next step in hip pain relief is to explore conservative therapies, including:
- Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Motrin)
- Alternating a heating pad with a cold pack for 15-20 minutes at a time
- Performing gentle stretches and at-home physical therapy exercises with the guidance of a professional or physician
For injuries that can heal, initial conservative treatment can help to reduce pain and increase function while the condition improves. For age-related, degenerative conditions, conservative therapies can improve comfort and mobility to the best possible degree.
Step Three: Make Healthy Lifestyle Adjustments
Another key step in overcoming hip pain is to practice a healthy lifestyle. While the following steps don’t directly cure or address hip pain, they can all play a role in reducing stress on the hip, decreasing inflammation, strengthening supporting muscles, and improving the flow of healing nutrients to the area. Commonly recommended steps by physicians to address hip pain include:
- Drinking enough water
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet
- Focusing on weight management to take pressure off the hips
- Improving your posture
- Getting plenty of rest as needed
The right steps may be different depending on your specific situation, but by working with your treatment team and committing to a healthy lifestyle, you can make significant steps in overcoming hip pain.
Step Four: Explore Interventional Pain Management
For hip pain that does not respond to basic conservative measures and persists despite taking steps toward a hip-healthy lifestyle, interventional pain management may be able to offer significant relief to patients. Interventional pain management takes a multidisciplinary approach to identifying the sources of pain and creating an individualized, holistic treatment plan. Specific interventional pain management therapies can include:
- Anti-inflammatory injections
- Nerve blocks
- Physical therapy
- Therapeutic massage
Once again, effective interventional pain management is about finding the right treatment or treatments for your specific condition and diagnosis. Finding a provider or clinic who can understand your needs and work with you is essential.
Step Five: Know When to Consider Surgery
Surgery is generally a last-resort treatment for most cases of hip pain. Candidates for surgery generally suffer from severe and debilitating chronic hip pain that has not responded to all nonsurgical therapies. If surgery does become an option, it is critical to receive a correct diagnosis for the source of your hip pain. A thorough evaluation and diagnostic testing, including steps like nerve blocks, can ensure that any orthopedic procedure will truly address the underlying sources of pain and hip dysfunction.
To help with recovery, minimally invasive procedures have been developed that reduce the size of the surgical incision and the damage to surrounding soft tissue. Anyone considering hip surgery should talk to their surgeon about the possibility of minimally invasive hip procedures.
Learn More About Your Options for Relief
The caring and dedicated team at Physician Partners of America (PPOA) treats hip pain very seriously and can help people dealing with a wide range of injuries and conditions create a personalized treatment plan for relief. If you have explored basic treatments and lifestyle changes without finding the relief you deserve, reach out to your local clinic today to learn more about how PPOA can help you.