The hip joint is one of the most important and flexible joints in the human body which allows us to walk, run, bend and perform physical activities. It is a ball (femoral head) and socket joint formed between the hip bone and femur (thighbone). It is surrounded by strong muscles and tough ligaments that prevent its dislocation.
The hip joint is prone to several types of injuries. Common ones include:
- Fracture: A hip fracture is a break that occurs near the hip in the upper part of the femur or thighbone. It is most frequently caused after minor trauma in elderly patients, and by a high-energy trauma or serious injury in young people. Long-term use of certain medicines, such as bisphosphonates to treat osteoporosis and other bone diseases, can increase the risk of hip fractures.
- Bursitis: This is a painful condition caused by inflammation of a bursa in the hip. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs present in joints between bone and soft tissue to reduce friction and provide cushioning during movement. The bony prominence of the hip is called the greater trochanter and is present on the outer side of the femur. The bursa overlying it is called the trochanteric bursa. Another bursa is located towards the groin region and is called the iliopsoas bursa. Trochanteric bursitis is the more common of the two conditions.
- Dislocation: This occurs when the head of the femur moves out of the socket. The femoral head can dislocate either backward (posterior dislocation) or forward (anterior dislocation). Hip dislocation can be caused by injuries from motor vehicle accidents or severe falls.
- Labral tear: This is an injury to the labrum, the cartilage that surrounds the outside rim of your hip joint socket. A tear in the labrum of the hip can result from traumatic injury, such as a motor vehicle accident or from participating in sports such as football, soccer, basketball, and skiing. Repetitive movements and weight-bearing activities over time can lead to wear-and-tear and degenerative changes to the hip joint in older patients.
- Snapping hip syndrome: This is a condition in which you hear or feel a snapping sound in the hip while swinging your legs, running or walking, or while getting up from a chair.
Common causes of hip injuries include:
- An automobile accident
- A fall from a height
- Joints compromised by congenital deformities or osteoporosis
Diagnosis of a hip injury often begins with a history and a physical examination. Your doctor may ask you questions related to your general health and any history of accidents or injuries. You will be asked to perform various range-of-motion exercises to replicate your pain. Most patients experience acute pain with weight-bearing and active range of motion, and minimal pain when the doctor moves the hip for them (passive range of motion).
You will also be recommended to undergo imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scans or MRIs to confirm the diagnosis and determine the exact position of the injury.
Self-care and pain-relieving anti-inflammatory medications offer symptomatic relief. However, the exact cause for the pain needs to be addressed. Practicing certain measures can avoid aggravation of pain and improve the quality of life. Avoiding physical activities that may worsen the pain, stretching the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, and performing warm-up exercises before exercise can improve the condition. Applying ice packs over the region of pain for about 15 minutes 3 to 4 times daily reduces pain and swelling. But if you have an injury with severe hip pain and swelling, talk to your orthopedic surgeon immediately for better treatment outcomes.