An Introduction to Hip Disorders
Hip disorders are disorders that affect the hip joint. The hip joint is comprised of a ball and socket that allows the thigh to move in different directions. It also allows the hips to support the weight of the body. Inside of the hip joint is cartilage, the tough but flexible substance that lines it and the ends of other joints. The hip joint is housed within a capsule containing lubricating fluid, which helps the hip to make smooth movements. Ligaments keep the ball of the joint from slipping out of the socket. Hip disorders can affect any of these parts, including ligaments and cartilage.
Types of Hip Disorders and Their Causes
Hip disorders are often caused by developmental conditions, injuries, or chronic conditions.
Common causes of hip disorders include:
Osteoarthritis is caused by the degeneration of cartilage in the joint. This causes the cartilage to split and become brittle. In some cases, pieces of the cartilage break off in the hip joint. Once the cartilage wears down enough, it fails to cushion the hip bones, causing pain and inflammation.
This condition occurs when a newborn baby’s hip is dislocated or becomes easily dislocated. The condition is caused by a shallow hip socket that allows the ball to slip in and out easily.
This disease affects children between the ages of 3 and 11. Perthes disease is caused by reduced blood supply to bone cells. This causes some of the bone cells in the femur to die and the bone to lose strength.
Irritable Hip Syndrome
Irritable hip syndrome is common in children often after an upper respiratory infection and causes hip pain as evidenced by limping. In most cases it resolves by itself.
Soft Tissue Pain and Referred Pain
Pain in the hip may be caused by an injury or defect affecting the soft tissues outside of the hip. This is called referred pain.
Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
A slipped capital femoral epiphysis is a separation of the ball of the hip joint from the thigh bone (femur) at the upper growing end (growth plate) of the bone. It is often successfully treated surgically with pins to stabilize the joint.
What Are the Symptoms of a Hip Disorder?
The hip is a complicated joint made up of bone, cartilage, ligaments, muscle, and a lubricating fluid. As a result, the symptoms of a hip disorder will differ depending on the cause of the disorder and the particular component of the hip joint that is causing problems.
Common symptoms of a hip disorder include:
- pain in the hip
- reduced movement in the hip joint
- referred pain (may be felt in the leg)
- muscle stiffness
- pain in the leg affected when you apply weight on that leg
People with arthritis may experience chronic pain and pain when walking.
If you have fallen or had an accident involving your leg and you develop swelling or pain in your hip, seek medical attention immediately. These are signs that a fracture may be present. An untreated fracture can cause serious complications.
Determining the Cause of Hip Pain
If you are suffering from hip pain, your doctor will perform a physical examination and run imaging tests to try to diagnose the cause. A simple visual examination of the hip may provide clues as to whether a deformity or injury is present. Your doctor will often manipulate your leg in different directions, looking for resistance, a popping sensation, or pain, to indicate what the source of the hip problem may be. However, more tests may be needed to confirm a diagnosis.
Common imaging tests used to diagnose hip disorders include:
- bone scan
Imaging tests allow the doctor to view the hip in detail. He or she will be able to see any fractures, deformities, or swelling using these imaging tests.
In addition to these examinations, your doctor may choose to do a bone biopsy to check for abnormalities in the bone and surrounding tissues. During a bone biopsy, a surgeon will take a small sample of your bone, using a needle. The sample may reveal abnormalities in the bone’s cells. This will lead the doctor to the cause of the hip disorder.
How Are Hip Disorders Treated?
Medications are used to treat inflammation caused by arthritis. Medications are also used to relieve the pain associated with hip disorders. Pain relief medications are often helpful in treating irritable hip syndrome and soft tissue pain.
Surgery is often used to correct fractures and severe arthritis. Slipped capital femoral epiphysis is treated by screwing the femoral head back into place, preventing it from slipping out again. Repair to some of the tendons, cartilage, or ligaments may be possible.
In extreme cases, especially in people with severe arthritis or an injury, hip replacement surgery (hip arthroplasty) may be a possibility. The total hip prosthesis is made of metal or a type of ceramic, and has several components, including a ball and a socket. They are made to be accepted by your body and are resistant to corrosion and wear and tear. Hip replacement surgery is a fairly major procedure, but most people will resume normal activities by six to eight weeks after surgery. According to the Mayo Clinic, hip replacement surgery has a better than 90 percent success rate (Mayo, 2011).
Hip Disorder Complications and Long-Term Outlook
Complications of a hip disorder include the inability to walk properly and the possibility of lifelong treatment for chronic pain. Some people may have permanent deformities due to the disorder. Depending on the severity of the disorder, you may need several surgeries to correct it.