Mild hip pain can make it uncomfortable to walk and sit, while severe hip pain can be absolutely crippling, making it hard to do anything.
Hip pain is the sixth most common form of chronic pain amongst adults of all ages, according to the National Academy of Medicine in the United States.
Problems with the hips can originate from a variety of sources - the hip joint, or in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues that surround it.
The source of the pain can also be found in the joints and/or nerves of the lower back, making it difficult to find out exactly where the pain is coming from.
How Does The Hip Work Anyway?
The hip joint connects the leg with the pelvis. It is categorized as a ball-in-socket joint, where the rounded head of the femur (thigh bone) forms a ball, which fits into the socket of the hip, known as the acetabulum (located in the ilium bone).
The functional hip joint is a great example of nature’s brilliant engineering: linking the legs to the rest of the body, it is required to endure a lot of heavy use -- but at the same time, it must have enough flexibility and range of motion to allow for the complex movements involved in crawling, walking, running, climbing and jumping.
This is why scientists believe it is so susceptible to pain - because it is a heavily used joint that needs to perform . It's the primary connection between the legs and the rest of the body, which means that it's used in most of the body's movements.
The Most Common Causes Of Hip Pain
1. The Hidden Source
A common cause of referred hip pain occurs when the spinal bones (vertebrae) of the lower back are misaligned (subluxation). This can lead to “pinching” and “irritation” of nerves that travel down to the hip area. Pain can be felt as stabbing, burning, aching or prickly and numbing.
Another cause of hip pain from the lumbar subluxation is its effect on the kinetic chain - the functional chain reaction of muscles, joints, and connective tissue that allows for movement. With misalignment in the lumbar spine, this can easily cause a chain reaction that can lead to a painful misalignment in the pelvis, hips and the rest of the lower body.
In order to determine whether your hip pain is caused by lumbar subluxations, ask your chiropractor -- they are highly trained professionals who specialize in spinal dysfunction.
2. The Dysfunctional Joint
These joints are located on each side of the sacrum (the triangular spinal bone located below the lower back), and they are the connection point between the spine and the lower limbs. Because of their location, they are extremely prone to misalignment and/or irritation.
Prolonged sitting, poor posture, and an unbalanced gait when walking or running are a few causes for sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and can all lead to severe hip pain.
Pain from SI joint dysfunction and/or irritation is usually felt in the back of the hips, and can even travel down the back of the leg, just like sciatica. The difference between sciatica and SI joint pain is that pain from the SI joint does not usually travel further than the back of the knee, whereas sciatica will often travel down to the foot, and can also include muscle weakness.
One of the most common reasons that people visit chiropractors is because of SI joint dysfunction and pain. If you are feeling pain in this area, be sure to schedule a visit to your chiropractor to see if an adjustment (or two) can help.
3. Short Leg Syndrome
In some cases this leg may actually be physically shorter (this is known as an anatomical short leg), but more often than not the legs are physically the same length, and merely function improperly because of a tilted/twisted pelvis.
This disparity leads to a disproportionate amount of force being applied to one side of the hip while walking or doing other activities, and is a common cause of chronic hip pain.
4. Strains and Sprains
In addition to this, strains and sprains to the lower back, knees, or ankles can also result in misalignment of the hip bones.
5. The Dry Joint
Osteoarthritis-related hip pain can be constant or can fluctuate with activity levels and even the weather (pressure changes).
This highly discomfortable pain can be the result of previous trauma, or can progress gradually from repetitive activity.
Because increased strain worsens osteoarthritis-related pain, patients who are overweight often have more difficulty with this kind of arthritis than their leaner counterparts.
6. Brittle Bones
Scientists believe that participating in weight bearing activity throughout your youth is key to keeping this bone-robbing disease at bay.
In addition, preventing bone loss with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D supplements slows this degenerative process.
7. Overuse Of Painkillers
This condition occurs because steroid use can temporarily or permanently cut the blood supply to the bones of the hip joint, causing the bones to erode. This deformation of the bone can then cause a number of difficulties whenever trying to use the hip joint.
Bottom line: if you don’t need to use painkillers, don’t.
These small fractures are very common among the elderly, and can be caused by falls or bumps. Sometimes they go unnoticed, because the pain isn't as intense as it is in larger, more evident fractures.
If an elderly relative falls or complains of hip pain, it is imperative that you schedule an appointment with their Chiropractor or MD to get an Xray and make sure this is not the source of the pain.
9. Other Conditions
Doctors of chiropractic consider all possibilities when caring for patients with hip pain.
How Can You Prevent Hip Pain?
1. Watch Your Stride
This is because your gait (the way in which you walk) can affect the alignment of your hips, thereby affecting your SI joints and lumbar spine.
During your initial assessment, your chiropractor will typically assess the relationship between the position of your feet and your pelvis during standing and walking, to try to assess whether the cause of hip pain/dysfunction is related to your feet.
2. Be Shoe Savvy
If you’re looking for the right shoes, be sure to ask your chiropractor where you should shop -- there are specialty stores that are as concerned about your health as your chiropractor is!
Shoes with adequate arch support and cushioning can go a long way in preventing future pain and dysfunction.
3. Stretch The Pain Away
However, since every muscle spans a joint, tightness in the muscle will cause an excessive amount of compression within the joint, thereby predisposing it to restriction, dysfunction and pain -- which can also lead to premature degeneration (osteoarthritis).
Stretching the muscles of your body can help prevent this excessive tension/compression, thereby allowing the joint to move more freely, and limiting the amount of wear and tear on the joint.
If you need stretching recommendations, just ask your chiropractor -- the muscle and joint specialist.
4. Avoid sitting on your wallet
Over time, even this slight additional weight during walking can interrupt the balance of hip joints -- leading to any of the conditions mentioned above.
More importantly, if you always sit with your wallet in your back pocket, you are experiencing a slow, steady misalignment of the pelvis that can show up any time as an irritated, painful hip condition.
To avoid this problem, carry your wallet in your jacket or front pants pocket.
5. Be choosy about your chair
You can help prevent lower back and hip pain by paying attention to how long -- and on what -- you sit.
Check out our guide to good posture, and be picky about the chairs you choose to sit in.
Visit A Chiropractor Today
At Back2Health, we have a trusted team of experts that will help uncover the real cause of your hip pain, and give you a plan to effectively relieve it.
Rather than masking pain with medication, chiropractors address the root causes of it. Regular chiropractic care can not only fix the pain, but ensure a long-term solution by maintaining the proper alignment of not only your hips and pelvis, but also your lower back, knees and feet -- all areas that may be contributing to the problem in your hips.