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Why there’s hope for active people with hip pain

Information provided on the blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment plans.

Hip pain is very common.  I see it everyday in my clinic; previously active patients find it harder and harder to do the activities they love because of hip problems, and that pain indiscriminately affects people across age groups and activity levels.

[pullquote_left]Certain types of physical therapy can be very beneficial and may help avoid any type of surgery.[/pullquote_left] Does running bother you? What about climbing stairs, flexing at the hip, or getting in a low chair?  All of these can be the first tell-tale signs of a hip problem.  With knee pain, there are a multitude of different treatment options: injections, arthroscopic procedures, therapy, etc.  Until recently, however, the same variety of options has not been available to treat hip pain.  No longer are our hip patients told to “wait it out” or immediately offered larger surgeries like a hip replacement, a surgery many active people would prefer to avoid because of the recovery time.

We have developed a step-wise progression that takes people through a series of treatments designed to reduce pain and return them to an active lifestyle.  Your physician can now recommend specialized injections, physical therapy, and medications, and in many cases, hip arthroscopy–a minimally invasive reparative procedure–can also offer patients an excellent new alternative and provide hope for a return to enjoying an active life.

In order to understand your hip problem, it is important to have a basic grasp of hip anatomy.  The hip is a ball and socket joint that is held in place by bone, and a smooth, white layer of cartilage covers this bony ball and socket.  The labrum, a cartilage structure, surrounds the socket, providing both cushion and a barrier to fluid leaving the hip joint. Stability for the hip is provided by the hip capsule, which encloses all of these.  Finally, the muscles and tendons around the hip joint allow the hip to move in different directions with speed and force.

Hip pain can result from injury to any of these structures.

For more information (animations, common procedures, and other conditions and issues), visit here.

How we previously dealt with hip pain and how our approach has changed

Perhaps two examples illustrate this point best.  An 18 year old female and a 45 year old male both come into clinic.  The 18 year old loves to dance and has been having terrible hip pain with certain motions.  The 45 year old loves to run, but has recently been having some hip pain in the front part of the joint.  We used to tell the 18 year old to stop dancing and it would go away.  Well…it didn’t.

Now we have the tools to implement a complete recovery process.  We know that certain types of physical therapy can be very beneficial and may help avoid any type of surgery.  However, this is not always the case.  When therapy doesn’t work, hip arthroscopy can be used to help repair the problem in the joint and get her dancing again.

What about the 45 year old with pain when running?  Same story. Previous medical thought would be that it is best if he stops running and just deals with some “cartilage” loss in the hip.  For someone who loves running, this isn’t a good solution. Quite the opposite, it’s a terrible solution.

With our current treatment plans, we are able to offer many different options that will keep him running.

  1. Specialized therapy can help a runner compensate or correct for problems.
  2. The pain may also be due to a single incident of inflammation, in these cases, specific injections can sometimes relieve the pain instantaneously.
  3. Once again, if all of these treatments fail, all is not lost.  The 45 year old has an excellent chance at running again with an arthroscopic hip procedure to repair some of the damage.  This creates a new hope for active patients who have previously been told to stop what they love to do.

One of the reasons modern medicine is such a great asset is its ability to keep people doing what they love.  Why should you have to stop gardening, or playing on the floor with your kids, or whatever it is that you do?  You shouldn’t have to, and now, with these new techniques, patients don’t need to live with hip pain anymore.

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Geoffrey Van Thiel, MD

Dr. Van Thiel is an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in sports medicine, for Rockford Orthopedic Associates. He enjoys keeping his patients active as well as being active himself.


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