Hip Pain

Common Causes of Hip Pain in Women – Should You Be Concerned?

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Hip pain in women can be caused by wear and tear, and overuse, and a few other causes.  Here are the most common culprits.

Pain Management Joint Pain

Does your hip ache?   According to government figures, about 7 percent of Americans report problems with hip pain, and as with other types of chronic pain, women tend to experience it more than men.

Because hip pain can have a number of different causes, determining the correct one is the key to getting the best treatment.

Hip Pain: Getting the Diagnosis

When you tell your doctor your hip hurts, the first thing he should do is confirm that your hip is actually the problem,  Women might say they have hip pain, but what they may mean they have pain in the side of the upper thigh or upper buttock, or they may be experiencing lower back pain.

Hip pain is often felt in the groin or on the outside of the hip directly over where the hip joint (a ball-and-socket joint) is located.

Hip Pain Causes in Women

When a female patient comes in to see his doctor, they consider the patient’s age, build and activity level.  If  the patient is a thin 20 year old runner or a heavy, sedentary 80 year old grandmother, the possibilities at the top of the list will be different.

Among the most common causes of hip pain in women are:

  1. Arthritis.  The most common cause of chronic hip pain in women is arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, the wear and tear that affects many people as they age.  The ball and socket joint starts to wear out.  Arthritis pain is often felt in your front thigh or in the groin, due to stiffness and swelling in the joint.
  2. Hip Fractures. Hip fractures are common in older women, especially those with osteoporosis (decreased bone density).  A woman over age 65 has a one in five chance of experiencing a hip fracture.  Symptoms of a fracture include pain when you straighten, lift or stand on your leg.  Also, the toes on your injured side will appear to turn out, a sign that can aid your doctor’s preliminary diagnosis.
  3. Tendinitis and bursitis. Many tendons around the hip connect to the joint.  These tendons can easily become inflamed if you overuse them or participate in strenuous activities.  On of the most common causes of tendinitis at the hip joint, especially in runners, is iliobial band syndrome- the iliobial band is the thick span of tissue that runs from the outer rim of your pelvis to the outside of the knee.  Another common cause of hip pain in women is bursitis.  Fluid lined sacs called bursae cushion the bony part of the hip that is close to the surface.  Like the tendons, these sacs can become inflamed from irritation or overuse and cause pain whenever you move the hip joint.
  4. Hernia. In the groin area, femoral and inguinal hernias-sometimes referred to as sports hernias can cause anterior (frontal) hip pain in women.  Pregnant women can be susceptible to inguinal hernias because of the added pressure on the wall of their abdomen.
  5. Gynecological and back issues. Hip pain in women can have gynecological causes.  It is important not to just assume that the pain is caused by arthritis, bursitis or tendinitis. Depending on your age and other health issues, the pain in your hip could be coming from some other system.  Endometriosis (when the uterus lining grows somewhere else) can cause pelvic tenderness, which some women describe as hip pain.  Pain from the back and spine also can be referred and felt around the buttocks and hip.  Sciatica, a pinched nerve, can cause pain in the back of the hip- the pain from sciatica can start in your lower back and travel down to your buttocks and legs.

Hip Pain Prevention

Bursitis can cause pain at the right side of the hip when rising from a chair and taking the first few steps, climbing stairs, driving, or lying down with direct pressure on the side of the hip.  Inflammation or tear of a tendon (tendinopathy) also may cause pain around the hip.

To prevent and ease hip pain during, work, play or daily activites:

  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Wear well-cushioned shoes and avoid high heels.
  • Walk up and down stairs one at at time, leading with your strong leg when you go upstairs or curbs, and with your weaker or sore leg when you go down.
  • Warm up before activities.
  • Avoid activities that make one side of the pelvis higher than the other, such as running in only one direction on a track or hiking or doing yard work sideways on a slope.  Keep your hips level.
  • Sleep on your uninjured side with a pillow between your knees, or on your back with pillows beneath your knees.
  • Stretch after an activity, when your muscles are warm.

Getting Help for Hip Pain

Treatment for hip pain depends on the diagnosis, but pain that’s caused by overuse or sports injuries is often treated with heat, rest and over the counter anti inflammatory medication.  To prevent injuries, it is important to stretch before exercising and wear appropriate clothing, especially good shoes when running.

If certain activities or overuse are causing hip pain, stop those that aggravate the discomfort and talk to the doctor.  Excess weight can put pressure on the hip joint, so losing the pounds can provide relief and help you avoid further problems.

Easing Hip Pain Through Weight Loss

Losing excess weight benefits your whole body-your heart, brain, muscles, and bones will all be healthier if you maintain a healthy weight.  But weight loss is never easy, particularly if you’re sidelined with hip pain and even walking is difficult.

Fortunately, the right combination of gentle exercises and restricted calories may offer relief from hip pain through weight  loss.

The effect of weight is thought to be so strong that one study is currently looking at whether a weight loss and exercise program may even be able to delay the need for hip replacement surgery.

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