Is Your Hip Pain Just Old Age?
Being free of hip pain really boils down to quality of life. The type of quality of life that comes with being able to not only sleep, sit, stand and walk in comfort, but also lead a fully active life.
The slightly scary truth is that we value these freedoms as much when we are elderly as we do when we are young. The scarier truth is that quality care for age related hip pain is the exception not the rule in hospitals and at our doctors offices.
I have managed hip pain in a primary healthcare setting for 2 decades. After this experience I can confirm that we have an almost comically extreme tendency to explain hip pain before 40 as hip pain, and hip pain after 40 as old age. At least it might be funny if it didn’t cause so much unnecessary suffering.
A recent study in the US measured how long ‘pain consults’ lasted when elderly people visit their doctors office. The study measured how long the pain part of the conversation lasted from the moment it was raised by the patient. The shocking average was 2 and a half minutes. To put that in context my average consult time with an elderly new patient in relation to their pain is 30 minutes for the history and 15 minutes for the examination.
Perhaps the most shocking illustration of what a primitive society we are when it come to hip pain, is a common interaction that plays out every day of the week at a doctors office near you. This is that doctors visit where an older patient presents with hip pain. X rays are ordered and they reveal osteoarthritis (wear & tear). Cutting a long story short and setting aside the limited treatment offered, the patient is left with the understanding that their hip pain is simply the onset of old age and that this is to be expected. Painkillers, possibly surgery one day and that’s it.
Regardless of what our doctor tells us, the scientific data tells us that osteoarthritis and it’s associated hip pain syndromes are genetic, dietary, environmental, lifestyle, age and wellness related (as opposed to just age related).
Let’s set aside science for a moment though and talk common sense. More than 90% of hip replacements are single replacements, due to the fact that the opposite hip is either completely free from osteoarthritis or only has mild issues. Both hips are the same age, both hips have the same hobbies, mileage, diet, genetics and lifestyle yet only one of the 2 hips needs replacing. Logically speaking how can old age be the explanation when both hips are the same age and have the same mileage???
The truth is that the specific reasons why one hip develops arthritis so much quicker than the other is unrehabilitated injuries, assymetric weaknesses and movement imbalances. Do I need to remind you again that the genetics, diet, mileage, environment, hobbies and lifestyle are the same in the non-arthritic hip???
The good news that springs forth from these observations is that we may be able to prevent much of the pain, wear & tear of old age. If we are willing to work preventative on strength and movement in our bodies we may find that preservation of our quality of life is possible.
The possibility of preservation of our movement and comfort means that we need to be extremely proactive about the niggly little hip pains we get when we are younger. I am alluding to another truth here which is that 2019’s crippling need for a hip operation was usually 1999’s niggly little hip pain and 2009’s limiting hip pain.
If you have persistent back pain, hip pain, knee pain, ankle pain, foot pain or plantar fasciitis, or any other stubborn pain for that matter I would encourage you to be proactive with both treatment of the pain and rehabilitation of the muscles in that area. Your quality of life may depend upon it.