Hip Health

Hip Health

By Dr Chris Carter, BSc, DC, GradCertPainMgt

Active Living Chiropractic & Massage, Kelowna, BC

I’m sure we would all agree that we would prefer to live life with healthy joints. When it comes to our hip joints this statement cannot be understated. We have two hips, a right and left, and these joints are conveniently shaped as a ball-and-socket design located at the very top of our thigh bones. Our hip joints are covered by an extensive amount of soft-tissues that includes several muscles providing support and movement for our body. These joints perform several functions, in particular their role in allowing us to stand on two legs and the ability to be mobile during movements such as walking, running and squatting. Fortunately, our hips are also tough, really tough, and allow us to jump up and land on two legs as well as propel us forward during explosive movements such as on the ice playing hockey or on the court to return that drop shot.

The importance of early awareness

As kids, many of us lived through childhood without ever experiencing hip pain. For those who did experience it, likely it was a short-term suffering due an injury such as a strained groin or hamstring muscle from sport, or a fall in the playground. Two conditions that affect our hips at a younger age and can pose more long-term issues into adulthood, such as osteoarthritis, include hip dysplasia and femoroacetabular impingement. In both of these conditions that nice rounded ball-and socket shape of our hips has changed and the ball of the hip does not move in the socket so well. Our hospital system does an excellent job screening babies for hip dysplasia when they are born, however following that it is not uncommon for children and teenagers to never get their hips subsequently checked. Pain or not, it is never a bad idea to have your child’s hips checked as it is something that can be easily performed by your healthcare practitioner and rarely requires an x ray or other type of imaging. Early awareness of hip problems can be monitored and supported by simple exercise advice as well as numerous education tips on preventing issues in the future. Most importantly, if your child is ever limping, don’t leave it. Their limp should always be evaluated by a health care professional. Fortunately, serious pathology in the hip is rare, however limping for too long from a painful hip places abnormal stress on other parts of the body such as the back and knee’s.

Why is hip health important in adults?

Given that our hips are the prime movers of our body, it should come to no surprise that prevention of problems in our hips can be valuable to the quality of our lives. When our hips become stiff due to arthritis or several other conditions that cause the soft-tissues around our hip to stiffen this affects the quality and quantity of hip motion and places extra stress on other parts of the body, in particular the low back and our knees. Low back pain is already so common and they way your hips move can be an important factor for when you may suffer back pain in the future. For those involved in any sport that requires running, knee pain is common, and the stability and mobility of the hip is commonly the reason their knee gets overused in the first place. Therefore, keeping your hips healthy can be an important component to keeping many other parts of your body health.  Easy tips for maintaining healthy hips include getting them assessed by a health professional, don’t sit for prolonged periods, stretch hip muscles regularly, and exercise a minimum of 30-60 minutes per day.

How do you know if you have a problem with your hip?

Like most conditions that affect joints and soft-tissues throughout our bodies, we will not always have symptoms such as pain and stiffness even though we may have arthritis in that joint or even a tear in tissues such as a tendon. Inevitably, symptoms will likely appear at some point down the road, long-after the condition actually began. When our hip is actually letting us know it is upset, common symptoms that patients feel include sharp pains in the groin or buttock area, pain running down our leg while sleeping or walking, stiffness in the hip when getting up from the seated position, and inability to lie in bed on the side of our painful hip. Pain in the hip requires at the minimum a thorough examination of both the hips and the lower back because back problems can also refer pain into our hip. Proper diagnosis leads to more effective treatment, advice, and helps minimise any potential future problems. Given the importance of our hips, and how common problems with our hips can occur, if any of the above symptoms appear familiar with you, have a chat with your health professional. Otherwise, consider getting your hips assessed even if you have no symptoms. As stated previously, it is easily performed by a practitioner and simple advice can help you live continue to live with a better quality of life.

If you have any questions regarding this article or how hip assessment can be of benefit to you, please feel free to contact me via email at ccarterchiropractor@gmail.com or by phone at Active Living Chiropractic, 565 Osprey Ave, Kelowna, BC, Phone: 250-448-8008