Chronic Hip Pain: How to Find Your Way Out of the Maze

If you've suffered chronic hip pain, you know how frustrating and complicated the search for relief can be. This article will help you learn what causes chronic hip pain, how to find the best treatment for your situation, and give you some hope for long-term relief. If anything, it is possible to manage hip pain with the right approach.


The Anatomy of The Hip Joint

To understand what may be causing you pain, it is essential to start with the basics, i.e., how the hip joint works. The hip joint is designed to withstand repeated motion and quite a bit of wear and tear. The ball and socket joint is the largest in the human body and fits in a way that offers fluid movement.

Each time the hip is in use, the cartilage offers a cushioning effect which helps to prevent friction as the hip bone moves within the socket. While you may assume from our description that the hip joint is pretty sturdy, it isn't entirely indestructible. Often with age and consistent use, the cartilage will wear down and get damaged. Furthermore, the bones in the hip can also break or fracture after an injury like falling or getting hit by a vehicle.


The anatomy of the soft tissues around the joint is very complex. There are many tendons, muscles, and ligaments that work together to stabilize the joint as well as contribute to the movement, posture, and alignment of the hip and the entire pelvis. With multiple interactions amongst the various muscles and tendons required to achieve any stability or movement, overuse is very common if there is an imbalance in the pelvis, joint or kinetic chain of muscles. Just about any one of these conditions can lead to hip pain.If your hip is feeling sore, there could be many things that are causing it. Below we'll look at the most common causes of chronic hip pain and the best way to address them.



Common Causes of Hip Pain

We have to start by saying that there are many causes of chronic hip pain, too many to list them all in this article. That's why we've settled for discussing the most common causes since it affects most people.


Joint Pain

Arthritis happens to be the most common cause of chronic hip pain, mainly affecting older adults. Mostly the condition can lead to a biomechanical imbalance within the hip joint and then further deterioration of the cartilage that cushions movement for the hip bones. People who experience chronic hip pain caused by arthritis will notice it getting worse over time. Many people will also feel stiff and report having a reduced range of motion, especially along the hip.


If not addressed in time, the resulting pain can worsen to the point where the person has a hard time standing or sitting. That's why it (hip pain) should be diagnosed by a professional early on so that the condition can be managed.


Fractures of the Hip

When most people age, the bones will often become weaker and brittle. When the bones are weak, they are odds are higher of them breaking especially if there is a fall or collision. However, if there is a fracture, it can take a long time for the injury to entirely heal. During that period, the person will experience immense pain, but with treatment will gradually improve.


Bursitis

The bursae are mainly small sacs of liquid that are found in between the tissue, such as the tendons, muscles, and bones. Their job is to minimize the friction caused by the tissues rubbing over bony protuberances. When the bursae are inflamed, they can lead to immense pain.

Inflammation of the bursae is mainly caused by repetitive movement or activities. Generally, people who engage in repetitive motion or long-term hip pain that alters the biomechanics of posture and gait will experience inflamed bursae, leading to hip pain. Depending on the extent of the inflammation, the pain can be long-term or relatively short-lived.


Tendinitis

The tendons are a lot like thick rubber bands that attach the bones to your muscle. However, when you have tendinitis, those tendons are inflamed or irritated. Tendinitis in most cases is caused by repetitive stress, generally from overuse of those muscles or areas. Chronic tendinitis is more accurately termed tendinosis as it is caused by chronic architectural changes in the tendon as opposed to inflammation.


Tendon or Muscle Strain /Ligament Sprain

Usually, this is caused by repetitive activities that strain the muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support the hips. When these become scarred mainly because of overuse, they can become painful and often prevent full movement of the hip, which makes walking painful and challenging. Ironically, movement and exercise help to break up that scar tissue and bring blood flow into those chronically injured soft tissues to help heal them up.

Many people who exercise for the first time after an extended hiatus can experience muscle strain or pain. However, the pain is relatively short-lived. But if proper exercise isn't being performed in the correct form, the pain can persist and often lead to other related injuries.

Other Causes:

There are other causes of hip pain that involve structures within the joint and bone disorders, as well as disease processes from within the abdomen, pelvis, or spine that can mimic hip pain, which is out of the scope of this article. With the many causes of hip pain, evaluation by a medical caregiver is recommended to make sure the proper treatment is being performed.



Identifying The Symptoms

Now depending on what condition is causing the chronic hip pain, you will often feel discomfort in the following areas:

  • Buttocks

  • Groin

  • Thighs

  • Hip joint

  • Outside of the hip joint

At times the pain from other locations in the body, like from the groin or back, will radiate to the hip. So, people will often report hip pain.

People may also notice that their pain often worsens with activity, mainly if the hip pain is caused by arthritis. Pain is also followed by a reduced range of motion which can become worse. That's why some people with chronic hip pain will limp after a while. While some causes of pain require rest for healing many of the chronic pain entities actually require movement for healing. Appropriate diagnosis is essential to correct treatment.


Conclusion – When Should You Get Medical Help?

People who experience sudden hip pain or redness, swelling, or a warm feeling around the joint should refer to a doctor for help. Also, visit a doctor if your joint appears to be deformed or if there is bleeding. You will also want to contact a professional if you experience hip pain at night or when you are trying to rest.

If the pain refuses to go away after a few months or becomes chronic, you should contact a doctor to make sure you are treating your pain correctly.

Many instances of hip pain aren't a sign of a long-term condition but can develop into chronic pain, which makes visiting a professional so important.