Dealing with orthopedic and sports injuries often comes with the territory for football players, marathon runners, gymnasts and other competitive athletes. But you don't have to be on the field or court to end up with a painful joint injury. Everyday types of joint injuries — from carrying a heavy load of groceries or taking a jog in your neighborhood — happen all the time. And they, too, can also lead to long-term problems if not treated properly.
Joint disorders — especially hip disorders that can cause chronic hip pain — are among the top reasons for seeing a doctor. "Musculoskeletal issues result in millions of orthopedic visits every year," explains Dr. Ashvin Dewan, orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist.
With hip pain, know your body's limits
Dr. Dewan says it's important to listen to your body when it tells you to slow down. "Sometimes we try to push through the pain, but you can end up doing more damage if you're not careful. When you experience hip pain, you can't always walk it off or solve it by taking anti-inflammatory medicines," he notes.
"As we age, our ability to heal is not as fast as it used to be, and we don't have as much elasticity in our hip tendons," Dr. Dewan explains. "It's like a rubber band that loses its elasticity over time. The best thing we can do is adopt lower impact exercises that that puts less stress on the hips, such as biking or swimming."
It's equally important to remember to give your body a chance to recover between workouts, which can also help prevent injuries.
When to see a doctor about your hip pain
Joint injuries are bound to happen, whether you're competing in sports or just taking a walk around the block. Minor hip joint injuries often can be treated at home with rest, ice, compression and elevation. But there are times when it's important to see a doctor so you can avoid further damage to your hip and ensure that you can heal properly.
It's smart to get medical help if you experience the following symptoms after injuring your hip:
- Instability or buckling of the hip
- Inability to bear weight on your hip
- Limited range of motion
- Numbness or tingling
- Persistent hip pain
- Significant swelling or tenderness
- Weakness or lack of strength while moving your hips and legs
Consider hip replacement surgery
Hip arthritis is one of the most common causes of debilitating hip pain. If your doctor diagnoses you with severe hip arthritis, hip replacement surgery may bring relief and improve your quality of life. Advances in technology have made this procedure very common, and the recovery time has been reduced as well. Artificial joint durability — joints made of plastic, metal and/or ceramic — is also vastly improved, so most patients who receive a hip replacement will never need another one.
"By the time people get to the point where they are considering hip replacement, they're enduring pain on a daily basis and it's dominating a significant part of their lives," Dr. Dewan explains. "It's the kind of pain that leads them to become less active. Hip replacement surgery can offer pain relief, better mobility and an improved quality of life. It is one of the most life-changing surgeries we offer."
10 signs it might be time to consider hip replacement surgery
If you're experiencing one or more of these signs, it might be time to talk to a specialist about hip replacement surgery:
Sign 1: You have frequent or intense joint pain with activity.
Sign 2: You have difficulty walking, sitting down or standing up.
Sign 3: You suffer pain while at rest (day or night), or you experience pain that interferes with sleep.
Sign 4: You have stiffness and swelling in the joint.
Sign 5: Your symptoms have been long-lasting or progressively getting worse.
Sign 6: You've tried rest and medications, but they haven't worked.
Sign 7: Tests show that osteoarthritis is causing wear-and-tear damage to your joints.
Sign 8: Steroid injections and medications no longer provide adequate pain relief.
Sign 9: You're suffering side effects from pain medications and/or are developing a tolerance to them.
Sign 10: Hip pain is taking a toll on you physically and mentally.