Hip pain is a common orthopedic complaint –
By John C. Kagan, M.D. –
What do former Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton, singer Billy Joel, former president George Bush and golfer Jack Nicklaus have in common? Each suffered from years of chronic hip pain until they decided to undergo successful hip replacements surgery.
At age 37, Retton was younger than most hip replacement patients when she had surgery. But years of rigorous training, plus a congenital hip deformity, made it almost impossible for her to be active without surgery. Nicklaus was in his late 50s by the time he decided to have the procedure done. The pain from osteoarthritis had become severe enough to prevent him from enjoying golf and playing with his grandchildren.
While hip pain can be debilitating and disabling, there are many surgical and nonsurgical treatment options to take away the pain and return patients to an active lifestyle.
The first step is to understand how the hip joint works. One of the body’s largest and strongest joints, the hip joint is designed as a ball and socket, with the rounded end of the thighbone fitting into a socket formed in the pelvis bone.
Cartilage covers the surface of the bones and acts as a cushion to reduce friction during movement. Muscles, tendons and ligaments connect the bones and keep the hip joint stable, allowing us to run, walk, jump, climb, turn and sit.
While the hip joint is built to handle a significant amount of pressure, accidents, degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis, and activities that repeatedly overstress the joint can lead to problems.
The most common complaint is sharp or lingering pain that may begin in the hip area and radiate to the lower back, thigh, buttocks or groin. Many people find the hip joint feels stiff. Others experience swelling, redness or tenderness to the touch. All of these symptoms are signs of an underlying problem that will need to be evaluated by a specialist so appropriate treatment can be prescribed.
Nonsurgical Treatment for Hip Pain
Not all hip pain requires surgery. It all depends on the reason for the discomfort. Runners, cyclists, tennis players and soccer players are often prone to “overuse” injuries, leading to inflammation and irritation of the hip tendons, or tendonitis. Pain occurs when the swollen tendon rubs against the pelvic bone. Rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, injections and physical therapy can be helpful in treating tendonitis.
Tight muscles or muscle imbalance can also cause hip pain. Both athletes and people who sit for long periods of time, especially at a computer, are prone to tight hip flexors, hamstrings and abductors. Stretching exercises that promote flexibility in this area can help reduce discomfort and correct imbalances.
Bursitis is another common cause of hip pain. The bursa are fluid-filled sacs located near the joints in the body. Like cartilage, the bursa serve as a lubricating cushion, but rather than covering ends of the bone, the bursa are located between the bone and muscles or tendons.
Bursitis occurs when the bursa becomes inflamed and irritated, making walking, climbing stairs and even crossing the legs painful. Treatment usually includes rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication and injections.
When Surgical Intervention is Required
Surgery is indicated for more serious causes of hip pain, including fractures, dislocation and osteoarthritis.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, about 10 million men and women in the U.S. have osteoarthritis, a common degenerative condition of the joints that causes stiffness, pain and disability.
Osteoarthritis is often called the “wear and tear” arthritis. In its advanced stage, there is chronic inflammation of the joint, the development of bone spurs around the edges of the joint and the wearing away of the cartilage that cushions the bones. Osteoarthritis of the hip makes it difficult to rotate or flex your hip. Walking, sitting, climbing or any activity can be a challenge.
There isn’t a “cure” for osteoarthritis, but the discomfort and disability can be alleviated with treatment. When nonsurgical interventions fail to provide relief, arthroscopic surgery, which can include hip resurfacing, total hip replacement or minimally invasive hip replacement, is the answer. An estimated 230,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed in the U.S. every year.
John Kagan, M.D., is a successful board-certified orthopedic surgeon who has been treating patients in Fort Myers and Cape Coral for more than 30 years. For more information hip pain and treatment options, go to www.kaganortho.com/learn-more or call the office for a consultation at 239-936-6778.