Hip Pain: Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

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Hip Pain In An Elderly Women

1Overview

The hip joint is one of the most important joints in the body. It carries the weight of the upper body, enables people to walk and perform various activities. The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that allows the leg to move in a wide range of motions and positions. Since it’s a weight-bearing joint, the hips can encounter numerous problems.

Hip pain is a common complaint by individuals from all walks of life and all ages. It can come from a wide array of problems, and the location of the pain on the hips can determine the underlying cause of the problem.

2Symptoms

Depending on the underlying condition that causes the hip pain, people with this discomfort may feel pain on their thigh, groin, outside and inside the hip joint and the buttocks.

3Causes

Arthritis

There are numerous causes of hip pain. The most common cause is arthritis. This means inflammation of the hip joint and the most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This is a degenerative joint disease that happens when the cartilage breaks down, and as a result, pain and swelling occurs.

The types of arthritis that causes hip pain include juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and septic arthritis.

Pinched Nerves in the Hips

When there is a pinched nerve, this causes severe pain on the hips and lower back. The most common conditions that have a pinched nerve is sacroiliitis, sciatica, and meralgia paresthetica.

Injuries

Some injuries in the hip area may cause pain such as dislocation, bursitis, hip fracture, hip labral tear, tendinitis, and inguinal hernia.

Cancer

Cancer of the bones may also lead to hip pain especially if cancer affects the bones. Also, when cancer spreads to the other parts of the body especially the hips, it’s extremely painful. People with leukemia may also suffer from hip pain.

Other problems and conditions may also lead to hip pain including avascular necrosis, osteoporosis, osteomyelitis, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, and synovitis.

4Risk Factors

The hip is one of the most susceptible joints in the body to develop osteoarthritis. In fact, the life time risk of osteoarthritis in the hips is about one in 5 for men and one in 4 in women.

Age

During our lifetimes, the hips carry most of the weight each day, especially when moving around, walking, running and other activities. As time passes by, the joint cartilage in the hips degrades as a person ages. By the age of 45 years old, osteoarthritis may be evident. However, full-blown symptoms like pain and impaired mobility occur mostly in the age of 60s or 70s.

Being overweight or obese

The heavier you are, the more pressure is placed on your joints. As a result, more degeneration can occur, and hip pain may begin.

Being a woman

Women are prone to hip pain particular osteoarthritis than men. Researchers believe that maternal genetic risks and female hormones have something to do with women being at a higher risk of osteoarthritis.

Past Hip Trauma

 If you have a hip injury or hip surgery, this increases your future risk of osteoarthritis and hip pain. Regardless of the risk level, make sure you are aware of the possible signs and symptoms osteoarthritis because early treatment can help slow the progress of the disease.

Family History of Arthritis

 Inherited genetics causes most cases of arthritis. When you have a family history of arthritis, you are more likely to suffer from hip pain.

5Complications

One of the most common causes of hip pain is a fracture. Also, arthritis may lead to hip pain. Here are the common complications of hip pain, fracture, and osteoarthritis.

A hip fracture can reduce mobility and independence. Sometimes, it could also shorten one’s lifespan because of the accompanying complications. Approximately half of people who experience a hip fracture are not able to regain their ability to live independently.

Complications of hip fracture:

  • Bedsores and skin infection
  • Blood clots in the lungs and legs, which are potentially-fatal
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Atrophy or loss of muscle mass, increasing the risk of further injury and falls

Complications of osteoarthritis:

  • Rapid and complete breakdown of the cartilage
  • Bone death
  • Stress fractures
  • Infection in the joint
  • Rupture of the tendons

6Diagnosis

Diagnosing a hip problem begins with a physical examination and a complete medical history. The doctor may ask about:

  • Symptoms you are experiencing
  • Are the symptoms worse after activity?
  • Are there types of activities that make the pain worse or better?
  • Did you encounter any injury or accident when the symptoms first appeared?

Physical Examination:

The physical examination for hip pain is focused on the leg, back, and the hips. However, the whole body will not be ignored because the doctor will look for underlying conditions that may lead to the hip pain.

The doctor will also observe the hip while at rest, standing, walking, and other activities. Furthermore, the doctor will palpate the hip and surrounding structure to test a range of motion and strength.

Imaging:

Imaging tests like X-rays, CT scans and MRI on the hip and pelvis will provide a picture of the bones. These may help diagnose an acute fracture and any breakage on the bones. Plain X-rays may not show all fractures or breakage, but they can provide images of joint spaces and arthritis.

Blood Test:

Blood tests that can help diagnose hip include anti-CCP or anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody can detect high blood levels of rheumatoid factor. This is one cause of hip pain. Another test is the detection of antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) which are abnormal antibodies directed against the cell’s nucleus. This test may help detect lupus or inflammatory disease that can lead to hip pain.

7Treatment

Whether the signs and symptoms are minor or major, it is important to seek medical help from a licensed doctor. The treatment may also depend on the cause of hip pain and the severity of the signs and symptoms.

Here is the most common treatment for hip pain.

Pain Medications

There are over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium that may help relieve the pain. However, it is important that these medications are prescribed by a licensed doctor because some pain relievers may induce an allergic reaction.

Rest

One of the most effective ways to relieve pain and swelling on the hips is to avoid repeated bending at the hip and direct pressure on the pelvis. Avoid sleeping on the affected side and prevent sitting for long periods.

Cold or Warm Compress

For the first 24 hours of an injury on the hips, cold compress is recommended. A warm compress or a warm bath, on the other hand, is recommended after 24 hours. To reduce pain, take a warm shower or warm bath to help prepare the muscles for stretching when you’re going to exercise or move around.

Mobility Devices

Crutches, canes or walkers may be helpful for short term use to assist you when moving around. These are usually utilized after an acute fracture or injury to lessen the weight placed on the hips.

Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement surgery is a type of procedure wherein the doctor surgically removes a painful hip joint affected by arthritis. The damaged joint is replaced by an artificial joint often made from plastic or metal.

Hip replacement surgeries have been performed for years and over time, the procedures have been improved all the time. However, with every type of surgery, there are risks. At first, you are not able to move around during the recovery period, so there is a high risk of blood clots. The doctor will prescribe medicines to prevent blood clots from forming. Other complications of this procedure include infection and bleeding.

Hip replacements will last for about ten years while others will last 20 years. Today, with the help of technological advancements in the field of medicine, the materials used in hip replacements last even longer.

8Prevention

There are many ways to prevent hip pain associated with fractures and osteoarthritis including:

  • Losing weight if you’re obese. For those with normal weight, maintaining the weight is important.
  • Stretch and warm up before any form of exercise and always cool down after exercising.
  • Do not exhaust all your strength on exercise. If you experience pain during exercise or activity, cool down and don’t overdo it.
  • Wear proper fitting shoes to prevent slips and falls
  • Avoid running on hard surfaces to prevent accidents
  • Hip pain is inevitable because as a person age, the hip joints may suffer from wear and tear, hence taking care of the hips is important. Don’t perform too many activities that overwork your hips.
  • Protect the health of the bones by eating high calcium food, taking calcium supplements and doing adequate exercise.
  • Be aware and learn about fall prevention
  • Change hazards in your house like steep stairs and slippery floors
  • Protect your joints by stretching, exercising, aerobics, strength training, sticking to an arthritis diet, and natural remedies. An arthritis diet means consuming foods that promote an anti-inflammatory effect and diets with reduced uric acid content.