We depend on our hips for many things every day. This sturdy ball-and-socket joint is, essentially, the epicenter of all physical movement. Whether we are standing, sitting, bending, twisting, walking, running, squatting, dancing — any movement you can think of — our hips are right there for us, facilitating that movement.
Even at rest, our hips perform a vital service. Hip joints help us stay balanced, sitting or standing, and the bones and muscles in the joint protect our lower torso as well as several vital organs.
So, when they hurt, or they don’t work like they should, we definitely notice. Are any of the following familiar to you:
Many of these symptoms are indicators of a progressive, degenerative joint disease called Osteoarthritis. In any joint, Osteoarthritis is a big deal, but when you have Osteoarthritis in your hips, your quality of life immediately begins to diminish. Osteoarthritis worsens over time, as age and use affect the bones and soft tissue of our joints.
The hip is a ball-and-socket synovial joint formed where the femur (thigh bone) comes together with the bones of the pelvis. The femur is topped by a ball-shaped knob covered by a thick layer of cartilage. The structure and musculature of the hip allow us incredible freedom of movement, however, when a hip becomes osteoarthritic the associated pain and stiffness reduces movement and negatively affects nearly everything we do.
Osteoarthritis is the result of inflammation or injury in a joint causing a breakdown of protective cartilage in that joint. Cartilage is a strong, elastic covering over the ends of bones that protects joints from wear and tear. Over time, that protective coating is worn down, reducing the “shock absorbing” function of that cartilage.
Aside from injury, the direct causes of Osteoarthritis are difficult to determine, though there are a few confirmed contributing factors, including:
Limiting certain activities when you feel joint pain, practicing proper form, and preventative measures such as stretching and proper diet can help reduce the development or intensity of joint degeneration. However, if you believe your joint discomfort may be Osteoarthritis, you need to know what to look for.
The most common symptoms of Osteoarthritis in the hip are joint pain, tenderness, and stiffness in the joint, especially when walking or after sitting for an extended period of time. Listen for that cracking or popping sound mentioned earlier. That noise, called crepitus, indicates cartilage has worn down to the point where the joints are beginning to suffer significant damage.
Hip pain due to Osteoarthritis can be either a dull, lingering ache, or a sharp pain that comes and goes. Sometimes, the pain is not even in the joint. Pain in the legs, groin, buttocks or back can all be signs of developing Hip Osteoarthritis.
Because these symptoms may show up in other parts of the body, it can be easy to dismiss them as “just an aching muscle” or “a stiff joint” or as a strained or overworked ligament. But, because Osteoarthritis is progressive, ignoring the symptoms will just make it worse. Don’t wait for the pain to get so bad you have trouble getting around.
There are two key factors that cause Osteoarthritis to progress, leading to further joint degeneration. The first is inflammation from wear and tear on the joint. The second is loss of water in the cartilage, which leads to hardening and further wear and tear. In the beginning, this is a slow process, but, as the cartilage continues to wear away and harden, degeneration speeds up. That makes preventative steps an important part of slowing joint degeneration and relieving pain and stiffness related to early stage Osteoarthritis.
If these early preventative measures are unsuccessful, do not let the pain control your life. Dr. Skaliy can offer Epidural Steroid Injections to relieve your symptoms. This combination of anti-inflammatory corticosteroids and anesthetic medication offers temporary relief of Osteoarthritis symptoms.
When initial treatments are no longer effective, physicians may recommend surgery. Depending on the severity of the injury or damage, different surgical procedures may be recommended, including:
Arthroscopy — Using relatively small incisions, doctors fix tears in soft tissue around the joint, repair damaged cartilage and remove broken cartilage. May reduce pain, but probably won’t stop further joint deterioration.
Resurfacing — Hip socket is replaced with a metal cup, while the damaged hip ball is reshaped and capped with a metal prosthesis. Less intensive than a full replacement, but still has a high risk of complications. Not recommended for patients with Osteoporosis.
Osteotomy — Bone(s) are cut and/or removed to correct joint misalignment (hip dysplasia). Very complex surgery that may not yield desired results.
Arthroplasty — Also called total joint replacement, the damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint made of plastic, metal and ceramic. Recovery is extensive, and the new joint can wear out just like the old one, requiring yet more surgery.
Because of the risks associated with hip surgery, as well as the extensive recovery time and uncertain outcomes, Dr. Skaliy recommends minimally invasive, non-surgical options for treating Hip Osteoarthritis.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) uses concentrated blood platelets, taken direction from the patient, to activate and enhance the body’s own healing capacity. In the procedure, a small amount of blood is drawn from the patient. That blood is placed into a specialized centrifuge to separate growth factors and stem cells from the red and white blood cells. The result is a super-concentrated platelet rich plasma.
Stem Cell Therapy is a minimally-invasive treatment that heals and repairs the affected joint, rather than simply masking the pain. The treatment works because stem cells actually repair and replace damaged cells with new, healthy cells, including joint cartilage.
The majority of patients who have received stem cell treatments specifically targeted at improving function and reducing pain due to Hip Osteoarthritis have reported outstanding results, including significant improvement in function as well as a marked decrease in pain after a month, and ongoing improvement even years after the initial treatment. The stem cells kept working, making them feel increasingly better over time.