Hip pain affects 1 in three adults. This pain can range from mild discomfort to intense pain that interferes with daily life. Hip pain may be the result of an injury, overuse, or age. Relief may come as easily as a few days of rest and self-care. But when the pain is severe, chronic, or recurring, its time to see a chiropractor.
Causes of Hip Pain
The hip is a ball and socket joint. The ball and socket joint in the hip is formed where the head of the femur meets the acetabulum, a cup like depression in the hip bone. The femoral head has a rounded shape that fits into the acetabulum. Because of its shape, the hip joint is one of the most mobile joints in the body.
The hip joints also absorb a lot of impact during activities like walking, running, and jumping. As a result,this joint needs a lot of cushioning and support structures. A thick layer of cartilage on the head of the femur, and a ring of cartilage on the acetabulum provide structure to the joint. This cartilage along with a thick liquid called synovial fluid helps ensure the joint moves smoothly. There are also strong connective tissues surrounding the joint. These ligaments, tendons, and muscles provide stability and movement to the joint.
If one or more of these structures becomes injured or begins to break down it can cause irritation, swelling, and pain.
With an injury the pain typically comes on quickly and follows a sudden impact or period of exertion. Injuries to the hip are common in athletes, active people, and motor accidents. Injuries in athletes and active people are often the result of the following:
- Overuse – overexertion or straining are a common cause of injury
- Unfamiliar activities – hip injuries are more likely when doing an activity that is unfamiliar or requires a different movement than the joint and muscles are used to.
- Dehydration or electrolyte imbalance – dehydration and electrolyte imbalances interfere with normal muscle function.
- Gaps in fitness training – A weakness or tight muscles in the core, back, or stabilizing muscles around the hip joint make injury more likely.
These types of injury are usually mild to moderate and can sometimes heal on their own with rest. If the pain persists for more than a few days or does not seem to be improving, you should seek a medical evaluation. You may have a serious injury or infection that will require medical attention. However, if the pain is debilitating you should seek immediate medical attention. You may have a fracture in your femoral head or the hip bone itself.
Chronic pain is usually the result of an untreated injury, a degenerative condition, or age. Often the result of tears or worn-down cartilage, chronic pain comes on gradually and worsens over time. The pain might worsen with walking, sitting, standing, or turning. Left untreated, the cartilage can wear down completely and result in painful bone-on-bone friction.
Chiropractic Treatment for Hip Pain
Chiropractic treatment for hip pain is an effective way to reduce your pain and improve mobility. A chiropractor focuses on tapping into the body’s natural ability to heal itself. However, as the body ages, its ability to heal decreases. As a result, it may be necessary to use a combination of therapies to treat your hip pain.
Therapies your chiropractor may use to treat your hip pain include:
Spinal manipulation is what most people think of when you mention chiropractic treatment. While they can and do adjust other parts of the body, chiropractors focus primarily on the spine. When the spine is out of alignment it puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerve bundles that communicate with the rest of the body. This pain can affect the hips or cause imbalances in muscle strength and mobility. As a result, other muscles and structures must compensate. So, while your pain may be in your hips, the problem may be in your back. Through direct or indirect pressure, your chiropractor can restore proper alignment to the spine. This allows the spinal cord and nerve bundles to begin healing, reducing your pain, and improving range of motion.
Chiropractic treatment for your hip pain may also include physical therapy. Just as with the spine, muscles that are tight or weak in other areas of the body can worsen hip pain. Physical therapy focuses on strengthening any weak areas or supporting muscles. This helps to take tension off of overworked muscles and ensure greater stability of the joint.
This is not the gentle relaxing massage you would get at a spa. The type of massage used in a chiropractic practice is a deep purposeful massage aimed at helping you recover from an injury. Your hip pain may be the result of, or caused by, muscles that are tight or overworked. This massage works out any knots or tightness in these muscles to restore normal function and range of motion. It also stimulates blood flow to promote a faster recovery. This type of massage also releases endorphins that can help reduce your pain.
Heat and Cryotherapy
Hot and cold compresses have been a staple for treating pain for generations, and for good reason. When you apply cold, or cryotherapy, to an injury it restricts blood flow. Restricting blood flow helps reduce swelling and inflammation and provides some pain relief. Cryotherapy uses applications ranging from simple ice packs to targeted lasers. Heat therapy helps to stimulate blood flow. Extra blood flow means increased oxygen levels which promote faster healing in damaged tissues. Combined, these two therapies can help to speed the recovery process and reduce your pain.
Ultrasound therapy is similar to massage and heat therapy but is much more targeted and on a much smaller scale. It uses ultrasonic sound waves to warm and relax tension in the muscles and connective tissues. It also works by stimulating blood flow to speed the healing process.
Regenerative medicine uses the application of stem cells to repair damaged tissues. These cells are ‘unspecialized’, which means they have the potential to turn into any type of cell that is present in the human body. You have a certain number of these cells present in your body from birth. When you sustain an injury, they rush to the site and begin repairing the damage. As you age the number of stem cells in your body becomes reduced. This limits or slows the body’s ability to heal. In some cases, it is possible to repair damaged tissues by injecting stem cells into the affected area.