The hip is one of the body’s largest weight-bearing joints. It is where the thigh bone meets the pelvis to form a ball and socket joint. This is because the top of the thigh bone is shaped like a ball that sits inside a hollow socket in your pelvis. Of all the body’s different types of joints, ball and socket joints give the most movement.
The hip has two main parts:
- Femoral head – the ball-shaped piece of bone located at the top of your thigh bone
- Acetabulum – the socket in which the femoral head fits
There are numerous structures that contribute to the stability of the hip:
- Ball and socket
- Capsule and it’s associated ligaments
- Surrounding muscles
The mobility and stability of the hip is increased by the strong ligaments that encircle the hip. The muscles of the thigh and lower back work together to keep the hip stable, aligned, and moving as it should. There are a number of nerves in the hip, but the sciatic nerve is the most recognised. It is large (around the size of an adult thumb) and travels beneath the gluteus maximus down the back of the thigh where it then branches to supply the muscles of the leg and foot. When this nerve becomes irritated, sciatica often develops.
Despite its durability, the hip joint is not unbreakable. With age and use, the cartilage can wear down or become damaged. Muscles and tendons in the hip get overused and bones in the hip can break. Hips can be prone to several types of injury, even to healthy joints after an accident or fall. Other reasons for hip pain could be due to osteoarthritis, bursitis, labral tears, and many other conditions.
How is hip pain diagnosed?
A physiotherapist may ask you a number of questions to assist in their diagnosis. These include:
- Where exactly is your pain located?
- Is it in both hips or just one?
- Do you suffer from back pain or knee pain?
- Did you have a fall or sudden twist?
- What does the pain feel like? Is it a sharp or dull ache?
- How intense is the pain?
- How is your walking?
- What form of exercise do you normally do?
- How is it affecting your daily life?
- Are there any pins and needles or numbness down your leg?
- Do you have any groin pain?
Theses questions together with a physical examination will aid your therapist in diagnosing the hip pain and determining a treatment plan for you. If the pain does not subside within a few weeks your physiotherapist may refer you for an X-ray or MRI scan to assist their diagnosis and treatment strategy.
Possible causes of hip pain:
- Fracture of the hip (neck or shaft of the femur)
- Ligamentous strain
- Muscular sprain
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Referral of symptoms from the spine, sacroiliac joint, or pelvic organs
- Congenital dislocation of the hips
- Perthes’ disease
- Slipped femoral epiphysis
- Hip labral tear
How to treat hip pain
Treatment suggestions include:
- Heat therapy
- Ice therapy
- Pain medication
- Rest and activity modification
How we can help your hip pain
We will do whatever we can to get you on the fastest route to recovery. Some of the treatment methods we use include:
- Strengthening exercises
- Myofascial trigger point release
- Cross-friction massage
- Stretching and range of movement exercises
- Functional exercises
- Core stability work