Why women are suffering hip pain and what they can do about it
There’s no doubt that exercise is a boon for the body — but it can also be the bane of the hips for athletic women. As women’s participation in recreational and competitive sports has risen, so too has the incidence of activity-related hip pain.
This reality is reflected in the dramatic increase of some orthopedic surgeries, such as hip replacement and hip arthroscopy. For example, between 2006 and 2010, the number of hip arthroscopies performed increased by more than 600 percent, according to the Journal of Arthroplasty.
K. Linnea Welton, MD, a hip preservation specialist at MultiCare Orthopedics & Sports Medicine-Auburn, is one of a few surgeons in the United States who performs complex hip arthroscopy. She talks with us about her cutting-edge specialty and how active women can best care for their hips.
Q. What’s at the root of this rise in hip problems?
Female athletes are prone to certain sports-related injuries due to differences in body structure, hormone levels and other factors that are still actively being researched — for example, women tend to have wider pelvises than men and also greater flexibility. This could, in part, be why they often experience higher rates of abnormal wear and tear on the hip joint.
Q. What sports or activities strain the hip and why?
I put common culprits of hip pain into three categories:
- The first includes activities that stretch the hip joint’s range of motion, such as ballet, ice-skating, hockey or yoga.
- The second group involves repetitive movement that heavily impacts the joint — running is a good example.
- The third group includes activities that entail both extreme range of motion and contact stress, such as volleyball, basketball or soccer.
Q. What can women do to offset injury?
Unfortunately, there’s little research available to indicate how to prevent hip injuries. But one thing that can help is maintaining body awareness — if you are hurting, don’t ignore it or push through the pain for a long period of time. It’s important to slow down and get yourself checked out.
Q. What can an ailing hip feel like and where is the pain concentrated?
Hip pain is often sharp and intermittent — aggravated by certain motions, positions or sports. But if the hip becomes irritated enough, pain can become constant and make even sitting and sleeping uncomfortable.
Many women feel hip pain deep in the groin area, where the leg connects with the body. Another common place is in the buttock, and some people feel discomfort in both areas.
Q. What should women do if they are experiencing hip pain?
First, ease up on the activity that’s causing your hip pain, and take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen for one to two weeks.
If you don’t see much improvement, the next step is to make an appointment with your primary care provider or a sports medicine specialist. They can help determine where the pain is coming from. At this stage, physical therapy can also be helpful for improving muscular balance and the way your body moves.
If you’re still experiencing pain after six to 12 weeks of limiting your activity and doing physical therapy, then it may be time to consult a hip preservation specialist. Don’t let your hip pain linger for months or years. It’s possible to get relief and continue doing the activities you love.
Q. What can women expect from a hip preservation specialist?
Hip preservation specialists diagnose your hip pain and then tailor a treatment plan just for you. Depending on your needs and goals, treatment can involve both surgical and non-surgical options. For example, sometimes injections (such as Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP), lifestyle changes and physical therapy are enough to eliminate pain. If they aren’t, then it may be time to consider surgery.
Hip arthroscopy is the most common — an outpatient procedure that repairs the hip joint. Other surgical options include demorotational femoral osteotomy (DRO) and periacetabular osteotomy (PAO). These procedures are more involved and require a hospital stay.
Q. What do you enjoy most about being a hip preservation specialist?
I think of hip preservation as one of the last frontiers of orthopedic surgery — it’s incredibly exciting, challenging and rewarding to be part of a field that is so needed.
Schedule an Appointment
Call 253-545-5987 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Welton at MultiCare Orthopedics & Sports Medicine-Auburn.
Learn more about hip preservation