Your hips do a lot of lifting but are also subject to injury and disease
Your hips are among your body’s largest and most important joints. They support your weight, maintain balance, and perform many other functions — all thanks to a relatively small ball-and-socket structure and its web of stabilizing muscles and tendons.
“The hip does more than allow you to sit, stand, and walk,” said Thea Wojtkowski, MD, orthopedic surgeon and hip and trauma specialist with OrthoAspen at Aspen Valley Hospital (AVH). “It connects your back and abdominal core to your lower extremities, so it is involved in a wide range of motions.”
Because of its complexity, utility, and location, the hip is subject to disease and injury.
Osteoarthritis of the hip, as in other joints, is typically caused by the breakdown of protective cartilage that leaves bone rubbing bone. Rheumatoid arthritis, a similar condition, is caused by inflammation that breaks down cartilage. Bursitis, muscle strains, and labral tears are other complaints that can cause hip pain, stiffness, and other debilitating symptoms.
Among common hip injuries, fractures are of special concern locally because of the popularity of high-impact, high-speed activities. “Especially here in our valley, where we have a lot active people, hip fractures are a concern,” Dr. Wojtkowski said.
Conservative therapies to replacement
Treatment for a fracture depends on factors such as the type and location of the injury within the hip, and the patient’s age and overall health. Surgical placement of a plate and screw may be appropriate for a young athlete, while an active retiree may need joint replacement.
To treat hip disease, Dr. Wojtkowski typically begins with conservative therapies: medication, cortisone injections, rehabilitation, applications of heat or cold, or use of a cane or walking stick. Exercise can also help manage symptoms.
“Even if it hurts a little, exercise can be good,” Dr. Wojtkowski said. “Exercise helps maintain functionality, strengthens the hip’s muscles, encourages production of lubricating fluid, and may let you avoid surgery. Plus, many people just feel better when they exercise.”
If pain becomes unmanageable, hip replacement may be necessary. Surgical techniques have improved significantly over the years and now include robotic-assisted procedures, which are available at AVH. After hip replacement, most patients are encouraged to start walking almost immediately, and many go home the day after surgery.
“In the days after the surgery, the patient will still experience pain,” Dr. Wojtkowski noted. “But when you’ve been living with the severe pain of arthritis, for example, post-surgical pain may be an improvement.”
Dr. Wojtkowski sees patients in AVH’s Aspen and Basalt clinics. For an appointment, call 970.544.1289.