It is nearly a daily occurrence. I have patients come into the office that would like me to treat their hip arthritis. Their hips are constantly hurting them. It’s a struggle to do even the most mundane of tasks. Putting on their socks. Climbing the stairs. Sleeping a full nights sleep. Even walking.
Of course in office treatment can help, which is why they come in. However, finding 'Do It Yourself" strategies is vital if we are to have a significant impact on treating hip arthritis.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a process that occurs in our joints. When we break down the word, “arth” means joint. “Itis” means inflammation. So arthritis literally means joint inflammation.
Arthritis is classically thought of as wear and tear. Essentially, repetitive micro stress and micro traumas occur at a joint and they start to wear it down. However, a more appropriate way to view arthritis is wear and disrepair. Rather than wearing out, the joint does not repairing fast enough. As we age, our bodies have reduced capacity to repair. When they don't repair as fast, arthritis starts to develop.
While this is a nuanced difference, its still important!
The Three Stages of Arthritis
Early stage arthritis
The early stage is the first phase of the arthritic process. Microscopic, molecular changes and disrepair at the joint surfaces and within the joint capsule are happening.
Very early stages of arthritis can’t always been seen on X ray.
Mid stage arthritis
The second stage is often when people find out that they have arthritis. X rays may show mild to moderate degenerative changes. The joint space has collapsed to a degree. There may be sclerosis or bony buildup and thickening along with osteophytes, or bony outgrowth.
This is due to the excessive stress on that joint. The bodies reaction is to lay down more bone to be protective.
As this progresses it leads to late stage arthritis.
Late stage arthritis
The final stage is where the joint is completely degenerated. The two bony surfaces may be touching, and there is reduced joint space and synovial fluid within the capsule. This is the classic bone on bone.
Arthritic Hip Pain's Impact On Daily Life
I want you to picture in your mind all the activities that you do on a daily basis. It probably starts with getting out of bed. Maybe going to use the washroom. Getting dressed, going down the stairs to the kitchen?
Within the first 10 minutes of waking up you've been using your hip to get you around...
...when your hip is causing pain, and doesn't do what you need it to do, it can change your life.
You can't focus. You can't exercise like you want. You can't do the chores you want to do. The hobbies you used to love. You just can't.
This is why EARLY intervention is key. Rather than waiting until you get desperate, or the hip pain becomes debilitating.
While vissintg your local chiropractic orthopaedic specialist for treatment is always a good idea, you can't do that every day either! So you need some self care, and 'DIY" strategies to treat your hip arthritis pain.
Lifestyle Modifications for Treating Hip Arthritis
There is nothing you can do to 'get rid of' arthritis, aside from surgery. However, not everyone with hip arthritis needs surgery. In fact, most do not. Many people even have hip arthritis and have no pain at all!
So what is the difference between two people with arthritis, one has pain and the other does not? One difference, may be the one without pain puts in the work to keep it that way. Here are a few ways how you too can 'put in the work'.
Exercise and Physical Activity
Perhaps you have been asked by a friend, or doctor, or trainer if you are fit enough to exercise. Are you healthy enough to exercise?
The question I have for you however is this: Are you fit enough NOT to exercise?
There are several health organizations that recognize that being physically active is extremely important for your health!
For example, the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity each and every week. Also, some type of resistance training at least twice a week for each of your muscle groups.
Don't forget you need to work on balance along with your aerobic and strengthening program.
You may be thinking to yourself: "Arthritis is a wear and tear problem. So the more I move and exercise, the worse it'll be!"
This could not be further from the truth!
Exercise is one of the key strategies to treating arthritis of any kind. Hip arthritis included.
Tips for Maintaining Exercise Routine
You need to find one that you will actually do. The best exercise routine in the world is useless when it is just laid out on paper and not implemented.
So the best way to find an exercise routine to treat your hip arthritis is to start with something you enjoy doing!
Maybe it's swimming. Yoga. Palates. Weight lifting. Maybe it's taking long walks on the beach and getting caught in the rain. Whatever it is, it needs to be something that you enjoy.
If you don't like any physical activity, it's time to suck it up buttercup!
Try one of the above mentioned activities. Give it a fair try for about a month, and see how you feel. You may be surprised that you actually find yourself enjoying it.
One thing is for sure. You'll enjoy how it makes you feel once your arthritic hip starts to improve.
Diet and Nutrition
You are what you eat.
If you are eating garbage, you'll feel like garbage too. If you are eating pro-inflammatory foods, you are more likely to be systemically inflamed. If you are interested in this, check out Dr. David Seamen's information. You can find him at https://deflame.com
You are what you eat. Some foods are pro inflammatory. Others, anti inflammatory. We want to have more of an anti inflammatory type of diet or as Dr. David Seaman likes to call it, a DeFlamed diet.
The low grade systemic inflammation from what we put in our mouths can cause, what Dr. Seamen describes as “body rot”. This is essentially, the degradation and destruction of our muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and discs.
What does this mean?
It means that this low systemic grade inflammatory processes occurring is literally rotting your body from the inside out. It's rather disturbing to think of it this way. But, this is technically what is happening.
This 'Body Rot" is contributing to the development of hip and other arthritic changes, and a wide range of pain syndromes.
Some people may be pro inflammatory. They will often will have more pain. Someone who is DeFlamed, who doesn't have systemic inflammation, will typically have less pain.
Even the nan injury occurs, the 'Deflammed' individual may recover faster.
This may be one of the one of the leading reasons why individuals with severe hip arthritis may actually have no pain at all! And why a person with mild arthritis may have a tremendous amount of pain.
The person’s body with more pain oftentimes will be Pro-inflammatory.
Unfortunately, this isn't the type of inflammation that can be controlled with Advil, Tylenol and other pharmaceuticals.
It is 100% controlled by what you put in your mouth. The food that you eat. Check out Dr. David Siemens material at deflamediet.com for more details.
Supplements for treating hip arthritis
Various supplements can be quite helpful to treat hip arthritis, and really any time of osteoarthritis. I like to categorize these into two main groups.
1. Anti-Inflammatory Supplements
This includes things such as turmeric, omega-3's in fish oils, Boswellia, Devil's Claw, etc. Their main job is to reduce the inflammation within the body and thus reduce the inflammatory processes occurring within that hip joint.
Magnesium can sometimes be helpful as well to help relax the muscles a little bit more alleviating that muscular pain.
2. Joint Support Supplements
This group of supplements helps with the components of the actual joints. They can help with supplying some of the structures and molecules within the joint cartilage. These include glucosamine, chondroitin, and SAMe.
What it boils down to is that by reducing the inflammation, and providing more of structure to the joint components, the arthritic joints become more lubricated, and less painful.
Obviously, responses to these different types of supplements vary. Some people respond extremely well! While others have no response at all.
My recommendation is that if you're going to give the supplements a try, use them for at least three months before you make a judgment call whether they're helping or not. If you find that they're not helping after three months, you can always stop them. If symptoms start getting worse again, then you know they probably were helping! If no changes felt they may not have been helping whatsoever.
Also important to note that supplements are just that. They SUPPLEMENT your health. You still need to be doing other things (such as diet, exercise, etc) for optimal improvements!
Pain management Techniques to Treat Hip Arthritis
There are several treatment options for hip osteoarthritis. They range from:
1) self care (things you can do on your own), to
2) conservative care (things others do for you or to you), and
3) invasive care(surgery).
In this article I will be going over self care options, as well as the conservative options you have available.
Heat and Cold Therapy
Heat or ice therapy can be quite helpful. Essentially what this does is alleviate the arthritic inflammation and reduce muscle tension/spasms. Heart and ice also stimulate the receptors that a pick up the nociceptive pain signals.
By altering the nocecpeitive input into the pain system, we can stop the pain signals from reaching the brain. This in effect stops the pain.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
This is also why a TENs machines can be effective. TENS stimulates the nerve receptor cells at the tissue layer and try to block the signals from reaching the spinal cord. If we can stop the signals from traveling to the cord, they don't reach the brain.
This means no pain signals are transmitted and no pain is experienced!
TENS units are very helpful not only for treating arthritic hip pain, but other types of pain conditions as well.
Thankfully, they can be relatively inexpensive!
There are some risks with using TENS if you have sensory problems. Because it uses electrical current, it is possible to cause a burn, so be careful!
Stretching and Massage Techniques to Treat hip Arthritis Pain
An arthritic joint will cause all of the muscles that cross that joint to tighten up, and sometimes spasm. This can contribute to the pain as well. This means that you should be stretching, and stretching often!
The good news is that there are certain stretches you can be doing to help optimize the function of your leg, your back and and your hip.
What area's do you need to stretch?
You should be stretching your hamstrings, gluteals, hip flexors, your back, your calves... and really just stretching everything in your body! But pay particular attention to the muscles surrounding your hip.
There are literally hundreds of different stretches you can be doing. And there are countless modifications you can do for each stretch. So I won't be showing you them here.
But, If you are not sure what stretches to do I have a tip.
Go onto “YouTube.com" and search the muscle you want to stretch. Just type in “hamstring stretch’, ’hip flexor stretch”, ‘groin stretch’ etc.
There are literally thousands of videos, showing you various stretches for those area's.
Now the question is if it is a good stretch or not.
How do we know if it's a good stretch or a bad stretch? Well, if you hurt more afterwards, you probably went too aggressively or it's just not the right stretch for you at this moment in time. Also, if you're doing a stretch and it's recreating your hip pain DON’T push into that.
The KEY with stretching is being gentle, but being regular and frequent.
These stretches and exercises aren't going to get rid of your arthritis. But they can help with your pain, and the function of your hip.
They will help manage the pain and optimize the function in your hip. Keeping it functioning as well as possible, for as long as possible.
Topical creams act in the same way that heat, ice, and electro stimulation help. By trying to block the nerve signals reaching the spinal spinal cord resulting in no pain occurring.
There are many different brands: Bio Freeze, Voltaren, Deep Cold, etc. The list is truly endless, and a new brand comes out every year it seems. Each claiming to be the best thing to help your pain.
The reason it stops the pain is it stimulates those nerves so pain doesn't reach the brain, you don't experience pain, it's not fixing the problem, it's simply helping manage it.
Some creams also have an anti-inflammatory effect, which is a nice touch.
When to Seek Professional Help to Treat Hip Arthritis Pain
In my biased opinion, I think if you are having persistent pain from any problem, you should seek out expert advice and possibly treatment.
If you are not experiencing any hip pain, you are faithful with your stretches and exercises. You are eating right, taking the right supplements and doing everything you possibly can to have no pain and optimize your hip function...well then you'll probably be alright.
Even in that case, you'd likely benefit from ongoing care. Maybe getting treatment every few months.
Someone who is in constant pain, and isn't doing the home care strategies, or is unable to do them because the pain...and your hip arthritis is impacting your quality of life...I suggest getting help from the professionals.
Often I am able to help those with hip arthritis get out of pain, and improve their quality of life in a relatively short period of time.
Signs of severe arthritis or complications
If you see someone who is walking with a limp and leaning forward in a slouched posture, they may have hip arthritis.
Pain in the groin is a possible sign of hip arthritis, as well as deep butt pain. Right on your sit bones.
If you are having a lot of stiffness in your hip, and maybe even sharp pains...this is a sign you need to get some help.
There are many options available. Medical doctor, physical therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, reiki provider, your next door neighbour Sue who had a cousin with this problem and claims to have the cure...
I suggest seeing someone who specializes in these types of things. Maybe a Chiropractic Orthopaedic Specialist, like myself.
Treatment for hip arthritis is available to anyone who needs it. There are many strategies that will work for you. Not everyone who has hip arthritis needs surgery. And the sooner you start doing something about it, the odds are more in your favour that you'll have a good outcome.
An ounce of prevention is worth move than a pound of cure, as they say.
When in doubt, consider trusting the experts to provide you with the support, guidance and hands on therapies that you need to help improve your arthritic hip pain.
Millions of people live full, active lives with hip arthritis. You can too. Just follow the steps I've outlined for you, and you'll be off to a great start!
Remember, you've got this! And if you like, I can help. Just schedule an appointment and we'll take it from there.