How Do You Know if You Have a Hip Problem?

Thomas Bradbury, MDThink you’ve pulled a groin muscle? You may have a hip problem instead. Because hip pain often presents in the groin area, a lot of patients come to me thinking they’ve pulled a muscle, when in fact they have arthritis of the hip or a hip impingement.

Causes of hip pain may include arthritis, hip impingement, and labral tear.

Arthritis is the most common cause of hip pain, usually affecting older adults. Hip impingement, which generally affects younger folks, is caused by abnormalities in the shape of the ball in the socket, and it’s usually congenital, or a condition you’re born with. Impingement can lead to arthritis.

When you have hip impingement, you feel pain when the hip is at the extreme of its range of motion, such as when you’re sitting or walking up stairs. Because impingement pain is positional, it shouldn’t occur when you’re walking on level ground or at night, while you’re sleeping. Hip impingement also may cause a labral tear.  The labrum can be thought of as a cartilage “O-ring” that attaches to the rim of the hip socket. Rarely, trauma can result in a labral tear.

If you have pain in the buttock area, you may have a spine problem rather than a hip problem.

How do you know when to see a physiatrist or an orthopedist?

Pain that doesn’t resolve with several weeks of rest and avoidance of painful activities or with the use of Tylenol or anti-inflammatory drugs needs to be evaluated.  At the Emory Orthpaedics & Spine Center, we use x-rays and MRIs to help diagnose hip problems. Steroid injections into the joint also may help with both diagnosis and to ease the pain.

When hip problems are caused by arthritis, we start treatment with conservative methods, such as use of a cane, modification of activities, and taking Tylenol or anti-inflammatories. If these don’t sufficiently ease hip pain, hip replacement surgery offers the potential for dramatic improvement in pain, function, and quality of life.

When impingement causes hip pain, hip arthroscopy may be beneficial. During hip arthroscopy, your orthopedic surgeon uses a small camera to look inside the joint. If there’s an abnormal shape to the ball or socket, it can be corrected with special instruments. This treatment will often offer improvement in pain. Labral tears can be trimmed or repaired at the time of arthroscopy.

Have you experienced groin pain or hip pain? Have you tried conservative measures and not found relief? Or have you had a hip replacement or arthroscopy? We’d like to hear about your experience. Please take a moment to give us feedback in the comment section below.

About Thomas Bradbury, MD:

Dr. Bradbury is an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery. He holds clinic at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center at Executive Park and performs surgery at Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital (EUOSH). Dr. Bradbury’s professional goal is the improvement in quality of life for patients with pain secondary to hip and knee problems. He began practicing at Emory in 2007.

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