The hip joint is between that of the head of the femur (thigh bone) and the acetabulum in the pelvis. It is called a ball and socket joint. There is cartilage covering these two surfaces to allow a greater range of smooth movement. The hip joint is surrounded by ligaments and muscles to provide stability and strength.
During the aging process the joint surfaces become worn and bony spurs appear. The head of the femur can lose its rounded shape and become flattened. The acetabulum’s surface becomes less smooth and tears can appear in the cartilage.
Patterns of movement become restricted the greatest being abduction (lifting the leg outwards), flexion (lifting the knee up toward the hip) and internal rotation (bringing knee up towards opposite hip).
Pain is typically felt first in the groin or in the outer hip and down into the knee. Some recent studies found that whilst pain was commonly felt in the groin and thigh and to lesser extent in the knee and foot, in those with symptomatic hip pain, the most common area of hip referral was the buttock.
Pain is commonly felt first at the end of the day after a lot of use and later on morning stiffness develops. It then becomes painful getting up from sitting, bending to put on socks and climbing stairs. The pain is largely due to the ligaments tightening around the hip capsule.
Doing exercises to strengthen and stretch muscles around the hip joint may delay the necessity of having hip replacement surgery. It may also aid in the recovery post-operatively leading to better outcomes and less time spent in hospital. Studies have shown that those with co-morbidities who are expected to have a delayed recovery, tend to benefit more from functional exercises, before, as well as after the hip operation. Your osteopath can help with diagnosis, treatment and the prescription of exercises.