Hip Pain: When to See a Doctor
(New York, NY. December 18, 2017.) Many people experience hip pain from time to time, especially if they lead an active lifestyle. A good deal of walking and hiking while on vacation or rushing to finish chores over the holidays can lead to a sore hip. People experience pain from overdoing it. Known as an "overuse injury," it results from repetitive stress on the muscles, joints and tendons.
Usually, the best way to deal with pain from overuse is to take it easy for a while. We advise patients to rest their hip, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication as long as they don't have gastrointestinal issues, and apply ice or heat. If an aching hip doesn't feel better in a week or so, a visit to a doctor for an orthopedic evaluation is usually in order.
Sometimes hip pain is a result of a something more serious than overuse, and the following symptoms should prompt you to see a doctor quickly or go to the emergency room:
- Intense pain that comes on suddenly
- Severe pain from a fall or other injury to the hip
- The inability to put weight on the joint or move your hip or leg
- A joint that looks deformed or is bleeding
- Hip pain accompanied by fever and a general feeling of malaise
For ongoing hip pain, people are advised to see a specialist. Since there can be any number of causes, the doctor should take a detailed medical history, asking plenty of questions. The physician should also perform a thorough physical exam to pinpoint the location and cause of the pain. X-rays often aid in the diagnosis, and an MRI may be ordered down the road.
Bursitis is a common cause of hip pain that usually results from repetitive stress on the joint. The bursae, which are small, fluid-filled sacs that help your joints move smoothly, become inflamed. Pain is usually felt on the outside of the hip. Treatment includes rest, anti-inflammatory medication and sometimes a steroid injection or physical therapy.
Some patients are surprised to learn that their hip pain is actually coming from another part of their body, such as their lower back or knee.
Arthritis is the most common cause of hip pain in adults over 60, resulting from years of activity and wear and tear on the joint. It's not uncommon for the arthritis to be accompanied by a labral tear in the hip, which can be likened to a torn cartilage in the knee. If a doctor recommends arthroscopic, or minimally invasive, hip surgery to repair a torn labrum, patients should get a second opinion. Studies show that arthroscopic surgery for a labral tear has no benefit for older patients with hip arthritis.
Conservative treatments to help relieve arthritis pain include prescribe anti-inflammatory medication, rest and physical therapy. Patients are advised to listen to their bodies and avoid activities that make their arthritis worse. If an individual has excess weight, losing weight may help by taking some stress off the joint.
If arthritis is severe and conservative treatments fail to provide relief, people often consider hip replacement surgery to eliminate pain once and for all and get back to activities they've been forced to give up. More than 300,000 hip replacements are performed in the United States each year.
Major advances in joint replacement techniques and in the implants themselves have revolutionized the field. One such advance is less invasive hip replacement. The newer technique achieves the same goal as the standard procedure, but with a three- or four-inch incision, as opposed to 12 or 14 inches. The surgery entails replacing the painful, arthritic joint with a fully functioning hip implant. Aside from the better cosmetic result, the smaller incision can result in less pain, a quicker recovery and easier physical therapy. Advances in anesthesia and pain management after surgery have also benefited patients.