by Dr. Benjamin Domb, M.D., Founder, Medical Director & Orthopedic Surgeon at The American Hip Institute & Orthopedic Specialists, special to SportsMD.com
Throughout my career, I have often heard people reference the hip as the wallflower or “forgotten joint,” when the hip is one of the largest and most important joints in your body. While the hip does allow for a wide range of movement, it is not indestructible, and many people of all ages suffer from hip pain and injuries. It’s also a difficult area for patients to localize and articulate to their physician when they experience discomfort, which often delays treatment or leads to misdiagnosis.
What are the most common causes of hip pain?
There can be a huge variety of causes leading to hip pain, including instability, impingement, fatigue, overuse and not stretching properly. These causes are often impacted by age and activity levels and felt in the buttocks, groin, and thigh region. For all injury types, early recognition is paramount. Early detectors include noticing a specific pain you haven’t felt before or asymmetric pain, pain on one side and not the other, in areas like the groin or hip flexor. Below are some top causes of hip pain:
- Osteoarthritis: most common in the elderly, this type of arthritis is characterized by the wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions your hip joints.
- Bursitis: involves the inflammation or irritation of the fluid-filled sacs (bursae) present between the joint structures to reduce friction and enable smooth motion; may be caused by repetitive movements of the hip.
- Tendonitis: occurs when tendons, or thick bands of connective tissue that attach the muscles to the bones, become inflamed when the muscles are overworked and do not have enough time to recover from the heavy stress placed on them.
- Labral tears: prompted by sudden hip twisting movements at the hip labrum or the rim of cartilage tissue around the hip socket that holds the upper end of your thighbone in its proper place; more common in athletes.
- Fractures: seen often due to falls in the elderly and in those with osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle.
Are there stretches that can help prevent hip injuries?
When signs of hip issues arise, my team and I recommend loosening up the muscles and hip joints by going for a daily, 5-10-minute power walk, followed by three sets of 10 of the exercises below to improve hip mobility and protect injury over time.
- Hip Flexor Stretch: Step into the lunge position with your right leg. Move your pelvis and torso forward slowly until you feel a stretch in front part of the left hip. Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat the movement with the opposite leg.
- Figure Four Stretch: Lie on your back with knees bent. Place the left ankle over the right knee to form a figure of four with your legs. Now hold the back of the right knee with both hands and pull it towards your chest. You should feel the stretch in your left glutes and hip.
- Butterfly Stretch: Sit on the ground and bend your legs to touch the soles of your feet together. Bring both heels as close to the pelvis as possible letting your knees fall to either side. Use your elbow to gently push both knees towards the ground to open your hips.
Wide Squat: Stand with your feet greater than shoulder-width apart and squat down. Gently apply pressure with your elbows on the inside of each knee to slowly spread them apart and stretch your hips. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then relax.
- Leg Swings: This is a good dynamic stretch to complete your hip stretching routine. Hold on to the back of a chair or table for balance when performing this stretch. While standing on one foot and swing the other foot from side to side in front of your body. Focus on swinging your leg like a pendulum with minimal twisting of your torso.
Bottom line, everything in your body is connected and no joint should go unnoticed. Listen to your body –especially the hips. If irritation in the hip region occurs, take a swift approach to minimize injury and prevent further complications by seeking counsel from a hip specialist.
Dr. Benjamin Domb, M.D., Founder, Medical Director & Orthopedic Surgeon at American Hip Institute & Orthopedic Specialists, is on a mission to educate and treat hip pain with the most advanced, comprehensive and non-invasive medical solutions. Based in Chicago, AHI offers a range of cutting-edge techniques in hip arthroscopy and robotic hip replacements, including Hip Resurfacing and Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. For more information or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Domb at American Hip Institute & Orthopedic Specialists, visit: www.americanhipinstitute.com.