One of the largest joints in the human body, the hip joint, allows for forward and backward movement of the thigh. In addition, it rotates while sitting and with direction changes when walking. Therefore, even a slight discomfort in the hip can interfere with the person’s everyday life. That’s why it is essential to diagnose the hip pain cause and assign a proper treatment.
Hip pain diagnosis
To diagnose the cause of hip pain, the doctor generally asks questions about the pain, other symptoms, and the past health history. For example, the healthcare provider may be interested in when the pain started, whether the patient has been injured recently, and how hip pain affects daily life. The doctor may also ask about the family medical history, patient’s patterns of exercise, job, and smoking history.
During the physical examination, the doctor may:
- Ask you to lie down: Examining the position of the legs while lying down may help determine whether or not the hip is fractured. If the leg on the side of your painful hip is shortened or rotates outward, a fracture might be suspected. If the leg on the affected side turns inward, a hip dislocation may take place.
- Examine your hips: Examining where your hips are most tender may help the doctor determine if there are indications of tendinitis or bursitis.
- Measure the length of your legs: Even slight differences in leg length can change the way you walk and produce pain.
- Ask you to lift and move your leg: While you are lying down, the doctor may ask to move a leg in different directions or help you move your leg to check the range of motion in a hip joint.
- Check your feet: Evaluating the pulses in your feet and looking for swelling in your ankles may help the doctor identify the cause of your hip pain.
- Examine other joints: Your doctor may also examine your spine, pelvic joints, and knee joints.
- Ask you to walk: Watching how you walk may suggest a possible diagnosis of hip pain cause.
Depending on the doctor’s findings from the physical examination, he may recommend further testing to diagnose the cause of hip pain.
- Blood tests. If the doctor suspects inflammation is causing your hip pain, he may suggest blood tests that can indicate inflammation.
- Imaging tests. They may include X-rays, arthrogram, bone scan, ultrasound, MRI, or CT scans.
Hip pain treatment
Hip pain treatment depends on the underlying cause. Its goal is to return you to the usual level of activity and functioning. Treatment options may include medications and surgery.
Hip pain medications
The doctor often prescribes medications to help control hip pain. Recommendations from your physician may include the use of:
- Over-the-counter analgesics: These pain pills do not require a prescription and include medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Notably, they can cause side effects. Therefore, you should talk to the healthcare provider before using them if you have other medical conditions. The last may include heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, kidney or liver disease, intake of other medications.
- Prescription medications: The doctor may prescribe medicines for your hip pain that are stronger than over-the-counter ones or address problems other than pain. They might include different types of anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, narcotic pain relievers, or antibiotics.
Surgery for hip pain
If your hip is broken, surgery is usually required. The type of surgical approach depends on the location of the fracture. Other considerations that help determine the strategy recommended include your overall health condition and the risk of using general anesthesia.
The doctor usually schedules the surgery for a fractured hip within a day or two of the injury to provide pain relief and prevent complications that may result from being immobile for prolonged periods.
- Surgical hip replacement is one of the most frequently performed joint replacement procedures. It is often recommended when hip pain due to arthritis affects a person’s ability to perform their daily tasks.
- Arthroscopy is now an option widely used as both a diagnostic tool and a treatment for hip pain. It helps determine the amount of joint damage that has occurred in the hip joint. It is also helpful in treating hip conditions like torn cartilage, early arthritic changes in the joint, and loose bodies in the joint.
Hip pain prevention
To prevent hip pain due to falls, especially if you are over the age of 65, take the following precautions:
- Wear low heels outside.
- Use the handrails.
- Walk on the grass instead of on the sidewalk or parking lot in icy weather.
- In the winter months, carry a little bag of kosher salt or kitty litter in your purse or car. Sprinkle it ahead of you as you walk across slippery sidewalks or parking lots.
- Install motion-sensitive lights outside your front door.
- When walking, stop at the curb to check the height before stepping down or up.
- Free up both your hands by carrying a purse with a shoulder strap, or consider using a backpack or fanny pack.
- If necessary, walk with a cane or use a walker.
- Invest in a sturdy stepstool.
- Make sure all area rugs are tacked down to the floor or have skid-proof backing.
- Remove all throw rugs, extension cords, and loose wires.
- Never polish (wax) bare floors.
- Keep clutter picked up off the floor.
- Install solid grab bars in the shower or tub and near the toilet.
- Place a non-skid mat in the tub or shower.
- If you are unsteady, use a shower chair instead of standing in the shower or sitting down in the tub.
- Wipe up water spills immediately.
- Keep a flashlight within arm’s reach of your bed, along with fresh batteries.
- Don’t stand up too quickly. Sit on the bed’s edge for a few seconds before standing to get your bearings.
- Place a nightlight in the bathroom.
- Place light switches at the top and the bottom of the stairs.
- Make sure to have and use handrails on both sides of the stairs.
- Place a strip of brightly colored masking tape on the bottom and top step.
- If stairs are carpeted, make sure it is firmly tacked or glued down.
- If stairs are not carpeted, make sure the surface is not slick.
In addition, to prevent falls that can result in hip pain and severe injury, practice the following healthy lifestyle habits:
- Monitor your intake of alcohol.
- Slow down while walking.
- Wear the right shoes.
- Exercise and eat right.
If you are injured and have sudden hip pain, or your chronic hip pain worsens, notify your doctor.