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Hip Injuries, Age 12 and Older

Hip Injuries, Age 12 and Older

Topic Overview

A hip injury and pain can make it hard to walk, go up and down stairs, squat, or sleep on the side that hurts. A clicking or snapping feeling or sound around your hip joint (snapping hip) may bother you or cause you to worry. But if your hip is not painful, in many cases the click or snap is nothing to worry about. Home treatment may be all that is needed for minor hip symptoms.

To better understand hip injuries, it may be helpful to know how the hip works. It is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body. The thighbone (femur) fits tightly into a cup-shaped socket (acetabulum) in the pelvis. The hip joint is tighter and more stable than the shoulder joint but it does not move as freely. The hip joint is held together by muscles in the buttock, groin, and spine; tendons; ligaments; and a joint capsule. Several fluid-filled sacs (bursae) cushion and lubricate the hip joint and let the tendons and muscles glide and move smoothly. The largest nerve in the body (sciatic nerve) passes through the pelvis into the leg.

Hip injuries

Injuries are a common cause of hip problems. You may not remember a specific injury, especially if your symptoms began slowly or during everyday activities.

  • Overuse injuries occur from repeating the same activity. The repeated activity, such as running or bicycling long distances, stresses the hip joint and may cause irritation and inflammation. Examples of overuse injuries include irritation of the large sac (bursae) that cushions the bones of the hip joint (trochanteric bursitis), irritation of the tendons in the hip ( tendinitis ), muscle strain , and hairline cracks ( stress fracture ) in the neck of the thighbone (femur).
  • A sudden (acute) injury may occur from a fall on the hip, a direct blow to the hip or knee, or abnormal twisting or bending of the leg. Examples of acute injuries that may cause hip pain include:

Treatment for a hip injury depends on the location, type, and severity of the injury as well as your age, general health, and activities (such as work, sports, hobbies). Treatment may include first aid measures; application of a brace, cast, harness, or traction; physical therapy; medicines; or surgery.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

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Home Treatment

Home treatment may help relieve hip pain, swelling, and stiffness.

  • Rest. Try to rest and protect an injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
  • Ice will reduce your pain and swelling. Put ice or cold packs on the injured area immediately. Put ice on for 20 minutes out of every hour and do this 4 or more times in the first 1 to 2 days. Wrap the ice in a wet towel. Do not put the ice right on the skin. Do not fall asleep with an ice pack on your skin.
  • Sleep on your uninjured hip with a pillow between your knees, or sleep on your back with pillows beneath your knees.
  • Gently massage or rub your hip to relieve pain and help blood flow.
  • For the first 1 to 2 days after an injury, do not do things that might increase swelling, such as taking hot showers or use hot tubs, hot packs, or alcohol beverages.
  • Do not use aspirin for the first 24 hours after an injury. Aspirin may cause more bruising under the skin.
  • After 2 to 3 days, if you do not have swelling or the swelling is gone, you can put heat on the area. Moist heat with a hot water bottle, warm towel, or a heating pad set on low may feel good on your hip. You can carefully begin normal activities and gentle stretching.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Do not smoke. Smoking may delay healing because it interferes with blood supply and tissue healing. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Cast care tips

If you have a cast, see cast care tips.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Pain or swelling develops.
  • Signs of infection develop.
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness develops.
  • Pale, white, blue, or cold skin develops.
  • Symptoms do not get better with home treatment.
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

Prevention

The following tips may prevent hip injuries.

Keep bones strong

  • Eat foods rich in calcium , like yogurt, cheese, milk, and dark green vegetables. Eat foods rich in vitamin D , like eggs, fatty fish, cereal, and fortified milk.
  • Exercise and stay active. It is best to do weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, or lifting weights, for 2½ hours a week. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. In addition to weight-bearing exercise, experts recommend that you do resistance exercises at least 2 days a week. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that is right for you. Begin slowly, especially if you have not been active. For more information, see the topic Fitness.
  • Don't drink more than 2 alcohol drinks a day if you are a man, or 1 alcohol drink a day if you are a woman. People who drink more than this may have a higher chance for developing osteoporosis . Alcohol use also increases your chance of falling and breaking a bone.
  • Stop or do not begin smoking. Smoking also increases your chance for developing osteoporosis. It also interferes with blood supply and healing. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

Prevent hip injuries

  • Wear your seat belt in a car.
  • Do not carry objects that are too heavy.
  • Use a step stool. Do not stand on chairs or other unsteady objects.
  • Wear protective gear during sports or recreational activities, such as roller-skating or soccer. Supportive splints, such as wrist guards, may lower your chance for injury.
  • Do not do activities that make one side of the pelvis higher than the other, such as running in only one direction on a track or working sideways on a slope. Keep your hips level.

Reduce falls

Hip injuries can happen from falls. Do all you can to prevent falls.

  • Remove any obstacles from your walking path and fix anything in your house that may cause you to fall. Household hazards that can cause falls include slippery floors, poor lighting, cluttered walkways, throw rugs, raised doorway thresholds, and electrical cords.
  • Keep furniture or other items that have sharp edges away from normal walking pathways in your house.
  • Use nonskid floor wax, and wipe up spills immediately.
  • Have your vision and hearing checked regularly. If you have poor vision or hearing, you may have a harder time keeping your balance.
  • Know the side effects of any medicines you are taking. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether the medicines you are taking can change your balance. For example, sleeping pills or sedatives can change your balance.
  • Check the condition of your shoes on a regular basis. Wear low-heeled shoes that fit well and give your feet good support.
  • Have a lot of lights in your house, especially on stairways, porches, and outside walkways. Use night-lights in areas such as hallways and bathrooms. Add extra light switches or use remote switches, such as switches that go on or off when you clap your hands, to make it easier to turn lights on if you have to get up during the night.
  • Have sturdy handrails on stairways.
  • Put grab bars and nonskid mats inside and outside your shower or tub and near the toilet and sinks. Use shower chairs and bath benches.
  • Be safe when you go outdoors. Use a cane or walker if you need to. If you live in an area that gets snow and ice in the winter, have a family member or friend sprinkle salt or sand on slippery steps and sidewalks.

If you live alone, you may want to get an emergency contact bracelet or necklace. If you fall and can't get to the phone, you can press the button on your bracelet or necklace. This calls 911 or an emergency number for you so that help can be sent.

Exercises to stretch and strengthen your hip and back area

Warm up and stretch before exercising to prevent muscle strains and injury.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What are your main symptoms? How long have you had your symptoms?
  • How and when did an injury occur?
  • Have you had any injuries in the past to the same area? Do you have any continuing problems because of the previous injury?
  • Do you have hip pain when you walk? How far can you walk without discomfort? Does the pain get better or worse as you continue to walk?
  • What activities make your symptoms better or worse?
  • What sports activities are you involved in? Have you recently started a new activity?
  • Do you think that activities related to your job or hobbies caused your symptoms?
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
  • What nonprescription medicines have you tried? Did they help?
  • What prescription and nonprescription medicines do you take?
  • Do you have any health risks that may increase the seriousness of your symptoms?

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised July 30, 2012

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