As major weight-bearing joints, our hips withstand a lot of wear and tear that can lead to pain and difficulties getting around.
While some hip conditions — like a fracture after a fall — require immediate attention, others linger over time, leaving you wondering when it’s time to see a doctor for treatment.
The hips, known as “ball and socket” joints, are among the largest joints in the body. The “socket” is part of the large pelvis bone and the “ball” is the top of the femur (thigh bone). Muscles, ligaments and tendons stabilize the joint, and cartilage protects and cushions the bones, so they can move more easily.
In a healthy hip, a small amount of fluid also lubricates cartilage and aids in movement. When any of these components are out of whack, hip pain creeps in.
Conditions that lead to hip pain in adults
To understand why it’s important to address hip pain, it’s helpful to learn what can cause hip pain in the first place. These include:
- Bone spurs – When bone spurs develop around your hip joints, they can cause painful friction in your hip bones, and can prevent them from moving smoothly.
- Bursitis – When your bursae (small, jelly-like sacs located in your hip joints) become irritated and inflamed, you may experience pain.
- Cancer – When bone cancer affects your hips or cancer that started in another location of your body metastasizes to your hips, you can experience hip pain.
- Fibrous dysplasia – When scar-like tissue grows in place of healthy bone, it often causes hip pain.
- Fractures – When you experience a fall or blow, cancer or stress injuries, or your hips are weakened by osteoporosis, your hips are more susceptible to breaks.
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis – When cartilage in your joints wears away and becomes frayed and rough, it causes bone to rub against bone. This condition is known as osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation and pain.
- Osteonecrosis – When there is reduced blood flow to your joints, your bones can no longer grow properly, and can break down.
- Osteoporosis – When your bones become porous and weak, they can break more easily.
- Sprains, strains, inflamed tendons – When your muscles, tendons or ligaments around your hips become stretched or torn, you may experience pain.
When should I see a doctor?
With such a variety of conditions – some chronic, some temporary, some life-threatening – it’s important not to ignore hip pain.
Head to the emergency room if you:
- Experience severe pain
- Notice swelling or redness
- See signs of infection, such as fever or chills
If you’re experiencing mild pain, you should rest, use ice and heat and take over-the-counter pain medications for relief. If your hip pain doesn’t go away in a few days or is severe, make an appointment to see your primary care provider.
How do I know if I need a hip replacement?
While a traumatic injury may require a hip replacement right away, other degenerative joint conditions, such as arthritis, require a watch-and-wait approach. However, chronic pain, stiffness and swelling from these conditions can eventually be serious enough for doctors to recommend a hip replacement.
Most patients first try medication and conservative methods, such a physical therapy. When those measures don’t resolve your pain or your pain interferes with your quality of life, a hip replacement may be the next step.
If you’re a candidate for hip replacement, an orthopedic specialist can discuss the types of hip replacement surgeries and minimally invasive techniques used at Tanner.
To make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist at Tanner, please call 770-214-CARE (2273).
Orthopedic and Spine Care