Hip pain is a common problem that can have a wide variety of causes. The exact location of the hip pain can usually provide clues as to the underlying cause. Problems with the hip joint itself typically cause pain on the inside of the hip or the groin. Problems with the muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround the hip joint will typically cause pain on the outside of the hip, upper thigh or outer buttock.
Because the hip is of course connected to the rest of the body, hip pain can sometimes be caused by problems in other areas of the body, such as the lower back or knees, called referred pain. Other causes of hip pain may be arthritis, including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis; injuries such as bursitis, hip or pelvis fracture, dislocation, sprains, strains, tendinitis, herniated discs, pinched nerves, and sciatica. It can also be caused by more serious conditions such as cancer or osteoporosis.
If hip pain cannot be resolved with self-care measures, treatment for hip pain may vary, depending on the problem that is causing it. Most often it will involve medications such as anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and cortisone shots combined with physiotherapy, exercises, and/or taking a rest from our regular routine to allow the body time to heal. In more severe cases, surgery may be considered.
Of course, we would all prefer a lingering problem to resolve rather than to manage it with medications, and to resolve it before it becomes serious enough to warrant surgery. This is where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture is a great option for pain and musculo-skeletal problems and typically yields very positive results in all types of pain problems, both chronic and acute. Treatments can help to relieve the pain quite quickly, and also to reduce inflammation and boost the body’s healing mechanisms, which may be just what is needed to resolve a lingering or chronic problem.
In Chinese medicine (TCM) pain is often a due to an obstruction of the flow of qi-energy and blood throughout the body’s meridians or channels. Because qi-energy and blood circulation is what allows the body to perform its regular functions and also to heal when injured, any time the flow is blocked, problems inevitably develop and pain occurs. Acupuncture focuses on removing these blockages to allow full circulation of qi-energy and blood through the body, resolving pain and weakness and allowing the area to function properly again.
While musculo-skeletal problems like hip pain may be due to external causes such as a fall or an overuse injury, internal weaknesses of the body can complicate or aggravate a problem once it is there. Part of an acupuncturist’s job is to look at the overall health of the internal functions to find any areas of imbalance, particularly those that affect the meridians of the hip. Imbalances will contribute to weakness in the hip and make it more prone to injury, as well as more slow to heal. A good example of this is a deficiency of the kidneys, which gradually weaken as we age. This weakness can make us more prone to lower back pain and hip fractures or pain because this area is very closely tied to the health of the kidneys. By improving overall health and correcting imbalances that have an influence on the hip, we can strengthen and improve the health of the hip area so that it functions better and is less prone to future injury down the road- all good news for those suffering from hip pain!
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.