The hip joint is the largest of all the joints in the human body. A weight-bearing ball and socket joint, it is responsible for a wide range of movements. Unfortunately, the hip can also be affected by a variety of conditions that impact on its ability to function properly. Symptoms of hip pain and stiffness can impact on our quality of life. Here is a short list of just some of the conditions that can adversely affect our hips.
There are two main classifications of arthritis that can cause hip joint pain: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both types can affect any joint in the body and are considered chronic conditions.
Commonly known as the ‘wear and tear’ arthritis as it mainly arises in older people. It is the most common type of arthritis in the UK and is caused by the degeneration of the cartilage inside the joint, so that it no longer protects the bone, resulting in pain and inflammation. However, it is not inevitable in old age and can in fact affect young people too. Risk factors for developing the condition include obesity, previous injury to the joint and repetitive movements, for example as required for an occupation.
A different type of arthritis that is caused by an immune system that is not working properly: it is the immune system that attacks otherwise healthy tissue of the joint, resulting in pain, inflammation of the surrounding tissues and swelling. The cartilage, tendons and muscles around the joint may also be affected. Risk factors are not entirely clear, but it is thought that they include a positive family history which suggests that there are genetic factors involved.
A hip fracture is usually caused by a fall or accident. It is more likely to occur in older people and in those who have osteoporosis, which is a condition that weakens the bones and cause them to lose density. Women are more at risk of osteoporosis. Other risk factors of developing osteoporosis include a positive family history, prolonged use of steroids, alcohol abuse and smoking.
There are fluid-filled sacs that help protect your joints, including your hip joint. Sometimes these sacs, known as bursa, become inflamed and painful, a condition called bursitis. Unlike arthritis and the other hip conditions mentioned above, bursitis is not a chronic condition and usually is managed at home. Risk factors for developing bursitis include being overweight, injury to the joint, or repetitive strain.
Other common conditions that affect the hip joint include muscle strain or injury and inflammation of ligaments. These hip pain problems are usually related to exercise. To reduce the risk of developing injury, warm up before exercising and stretch well afterwards. Make sure that you wear appropriate shoes and try to avoid exercising on hard surfaces, such as concrete and roads. You may consider taking up lower impact sports such as swimming or cycling.
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