Before we pull back the curtain on hip pain, it’s important to understand the basic mechanics of the hip joint. Like our shoulders, the hip is a ball and socket joint – meaning it has the capacity to move through several planes of motion. Also like the shoulders, the surfaces of the hip are smooth and protected by a thin layer of cartilage so as to not expose the sensitive bony surfaces that lie beneath.
Like many aches and pains, hip pain caused by osteoarthritis typically starts to affect people in their fifth decade as that thin layer of protective cartilage starts wearing away. This can set in earlier or later in life depending on someone’s occupation, hobbies, genetics, etc. As the cartilage begins to deteriorate and the bone weakens, your once smooth and congruent surfaces start to change. The bone beneath the cartilage becomes exposed and damaged, resulting in inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
Once you have reached this stage, it’s like trying to get toothpaste back in the tube. That’s why early detection is critical and brings us to our first point.
Hip pain often gets misdiagnosed or goes completely undiagnosed until it’s too late. This is because there is a very close association with lower back pain. Pain being caused by your hip can often look like pain radiating from the spine making it easy to misjudge.
The pain you feel in your groin area or diffusely into the front of your thigh is likely coming from your hip. Hip dysfunction often manifests as pain radiating into the front of the thigh. People often interpret this as a sore muscle, back, or knee pain but it’s more than likely coming from the hip.
Hip dysfunction can cause you to have trouble doing the following: Crossing your legs to put on your shoes, getting your leg into a comfortable position at night, easily getting in and out of the car, and walking with a normal gait.
When hip dysfunction is managed successfully, any concurrent lower back pain often resolves. Damage to the hip joint often results in changes to your gait which can lead to lower back pain. As your hip starts to heal and your walking improves, most lower back pain will have the opportunity to lessen.
When left untreated, one of the many negative effects of hip dysfunction is a change to your posture causing you to appear bent forward. Hip dysfunction leads to predictable areas of tightness, one of those being the front of your hip/ thigh. When this area tightens, the muscular attachments start to pull the spine forward making it difficult to stand completely erect.
If you are uncertain whether your pain could be coming from your hip, the best way to tell is with a thorough physical assessment. Without an x-ray, your physical therapist will be able to indicate if your issues could be hip-related or otherwise. Better yet, they will be able to direct you to the best exercises, stretches, and management tools that will foster natural healing and self-preservation.
Get started with a free 30-minute Discovery Visit with one of our doctors. This session will help you gain more clarity around the problem and help you decide on the best treatment option for you. Call us today to get started (504) 407-3477!