Hip Joint pain – don’t live with it!

As we get older we all start to become aware of little aches and pains in our body; mostly around our joints and sometimes within our muscles. There is no doubt that over time and yes with age there is wear and tear on a joint, especially if you played high intensity sports as a younger person, but we don’t have to live with the pain just because we are told it’s “part of the aging process”. 

Now, there are a number of reasons why we might feel pain, discomfort or stiffness – much of it we may be able to alleviate through our diet, daily exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, professional treatments (such as Acupuncture) and some positive thinking. Perhaps we experienced an injury falling down a step or slipping on some ice, in which case the pain you feel will be acute and probably very specific to the injury site.  This is the time that you should see your health practitioner for treatment if needed and rest.

hip pain is different for many of us...

Joint pain, especially the hips, can be experienced differently for many people; based up the location of the pain, what makes it worse or better and what the intensity is. 

Pain on the outside of the hip may be tendonitis, according to a Harvard article posted recently. Pain around the hip joint that travels into the buttocks and sometimes down the leg is often diagnosed as Sciatica or Piriformis Syndrome according to Dr. Biggers and can often be treated with stretches and exercises and especially Acupuncture treatments. Sometimes if you feel pain in your knee or low back this affects the action of your hip joint! So it may not actually be a hip joint issue but a compensation situation. Again your health practitioner can quickly assess and treat this type of pain fairly well.

I personally have experienced hip pain when sitting crossed legs for too long. For a few years I thought it was my hip joint that was the issue, but after strengthening the muscles around my hips I have reduced and often eliminated that searing pain I used to feel when getting up from a cross legged position to walk.

Here is a 3 minute stretch & strengthening video for the hips

Let's talk about the variety of discomfort many people feel from an eastern & western medicine perspective...

DULL HIP PAIN

A dull, achy, chronic pain, felt deeper in the hip socket, is often called arthritis or Osteoarthritis by many western doctors. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. There are a number of recommended medical approaches, so speak to your doctor if you are having this pain.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) often associates this dull ache with a deficiency condition – maybe there is not enough blood, nutrients or fluids keeping the joint lubricated and moving well or the muscles around the area are weak.

Seek acupuncture treatments from your health practitioner if possible. Include some lifestyle changes or improvements (get more exercise, reduce stress) and eat well to support your digestion, muscles and bones.

As an Acupuncturist I treat dull hip pain quite alot with very good success, however, treatment works best when it is combined with exercise and lifestyle improvements. I highly recommend strengthening the muscles around the hip to support healthy movement of the joint. I included a simple video below for some hip exercises you can do at home- it only takes 3 minutes!


SHARP HIP PAIN

If you are feeling the type of pain that is biting or stabbing, usually upon movement, that can mean there is an issue within the joint capsule itself.  The cartilage may be worn down and sometimes bone spurs can develop in the hip joint.  This type of pain should not be ignored, so seek medical attention to determine what is going on.  This may require imaging of the hip joint.

TCM often treats stabbing, boring pain in the body as a  blood stagnation or stasis condition.  It may also be a condition known as cold bi syndrome – where cold has settled into the joint causing strong pain. 

Acupuncture treatments, cupping and herbs can definitely assist in reducing and eliminating this pain, but often some rest and a warm bath or applied heat pad can be very helpful. You should not keep working through this pain as it can be something more serious happening.

Your therapist may recommend you see a medical doctor to get some imaging of the hip to determine if there is a more serious issue going on.


STRONG HIP PAIN

Inflammation within the hip joint that causes pain when lying on it or walking up the stairs is often associated with the inflammation of a bursa.

There are a number of conventional treatment options offered for this type of hip pain, so talk it over with your health practitioner to see what is best. Often rest for a bit then strength exercises are recommended.

Inflammation affecting a joint may be diagnosed in TCM as a damp bi syndrome – where dampness has settled within causing a strong pain.  Some people feel stiffness when they’ve been sitting along time and get up to move or experience or feel pain when it’s damp outside.


STIFF/TIGHT HIPS

Stiff hip movements may be the result of tight muscles around the area, especially the hamstrings and hip flexors. Your therapist can determine which muscles are tight and in need of stretching or strengthening.

Sometimes you may get up from your chair and feel stiffness as you start walking, but then the stiffness eases as you continue walking. The stiffness may come and go, depending on your stress levels or emotional/mental challenges.  In TCM we may consider this type of hip discomfort a qi stagnation – qi is stuck and not moving well around the joint causing pain, but with enough movement it often subsides or reduces.

 

How can you treat this holistically?

This hip stretch may NOT be appropriate for those who have had a hip replacement

What can you do to help keep your hip joints in good shape?

  • If you are feeling acute/new pain around your hip, make sure to get it checked out and seek treatment if needed…don’t wait for it to become a chronic condition.
  • Strengthen the muscles around the hip joint. Work with a trainer if needed. (see the video for some help)
  • Apply some heat using a heat pad or warm bath if your hips are feeling stiff
  • Keep moving, especially if you are sitting for a long time, get up and walk around to get your qi flowing again.
  • Maintain good bone health through exercise and proper diet

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About the Author
Cindy Willems

Cindy Willems

Cindy is the owner/creator or My Fit Over 50. She is a registered acupuncturist, certified Pilates instructor, holistic nutritionist and educator. She takes a holistic approach to achieving whole body health and she believes that it is important to keep challenging the body and mind safely and efficiently as we age. Cindy also has a busy clinic called Women's Health Centre in Toronto, Ontario.