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When Hip Pain Isn't Hip

Sep 11, 2009

Hips protect our vital organs and give our legs the range of motion they need to take us from one to place to another. They also give us the moves that make us feel like we’re on Dancing with the Stars! But as we age and injuries take hold, the hip joint can cause significant pain. The hip joint is a prime candidate for arthritis, and muscles and tendons that support the hips can become inflamed from overuse.

“Most commonly hip pain is caused by arthritis, which over time could require a total hip replacement, but hip pain can be confusing since it may be a sign of many medical conditions,” said Henry Finn, M.D., chief of orthopedic surgery at Weiss Memorial Hospital, medical director of the University of Chicago Bone and Joint Replacement Center at Weiss, and professor of surgery at University of Chicago.

While all hip pain is uncomfortable, if it’s difficult to walk with ease, sleep through the night or bend at the hip, be sure to see your doctor; these are signs of serious hip problems. But before you jump into total hip replacement surgery, check out some healthful hints from the experts at Weiss Memorial Hospital to get some pain relief.

Get support: If you walk with a limp, pick up a cane or crutches. Move the devices forward at the same time you step to share the weight with the injured hip.

Go polar: Ice is the first line of defense against hip pain. Lay a thin towel over your hip and apply a bag of crushed ice to the affected area for 15 minutes. For chronic pain such as arthritis, you may need to apply once or twice a day.

Take it easy: Avoid high-impact exercises. Be sure to get an adequate amount of rest, drive instead of walk to a nearby destination and take the elevator instead of the stairs.

Stay active: Don’t give up on physical activity altogether; it can lead to significant muscle loss and excessive weight gain, which will only perpetuate the pain. Stay in balance with stretching, strengthening and endurance exercises. Try aquatic workouts, which take the weight off the hip.

If the pain intensifies, see your doctor for other treatment options that will bring more permanent pain relief, such as with total hip replacement.