The hip joint is a ball and socket synovial joint designed to keep the body stable, even when twisting or standing on one leg.
The joint and soft tissues surrounding it need to be strong for the hip to function fully. A healthy hip should allow you to walk, turn, kick and squat without pain.
Anatomy of the hip joint
The Hip is the joint formed where the head of the femur (thigh bone) meets the socket (acetabulum in pelvis). The joint is covered with cartilage, which acts as a cushion and allows for smooth, gliding movement. The function and stability of the hip joint depends on the congruity of the joint, muscles and ligaments. Flexion (bending), extension (straightening), abduction (movement away from the body), adduction (movement towards the body) and rotation are the principal movements undertaken at the hip joint. Hip replacement surgery has become more common, due to advances in technique, the types of implants and materials. The operation can greatly improve quality of life by reducing pain, increasing mobility and correction of deformity.
What causes hip pain?
The hip is a complex structure and pain in the hip can be due to various conditions, such as:
- Poor posture
- Tendon or muscle injury
- Muscle imbalance
- Degenerative diseases
You will need to have an assessment and possible scans to identify the exact problem causing your hip pain.
How does the hip work?
The hip is one of the largest weight bearing joints in the body. It is an intricate network of tendons, muscles, synovial fluid, bone, nerves and cartilage.
The ball and socket joint allows the hip to move in many patterns. This includes flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, circumduction, and rotation.
The ball of the femur and the socket of the pelvic bone are both covered by cartilage. When cartilage is healthy, it absorbs shock and stress and allows the ball to glide seamlessly into the socket. Thanks to the synovial fluid capsule, the hip is nourished and lubricated to eliminate any friction within the joint.
The ligaments keep the bones in place while the muscles lengthen and shorten. This allows for movement of the legs.
In a healthy hip, all the parts work harmoniously, leading to a freely moving, pain-free joint.
What can help with hip pain?
Hip pain can be mild to severe. Your GP or Pharmacist will be able to advise on pain medication.
Your GP will be able to assess your hip and refer you to any other health professionals if needed.
Initially, you may see a Physiotherapist for a specialist assessment. A Physiotherapist will be able to prescribe exercises and perform manual therapies. However, physiotherapy may not help all hip conditions. Some problems require surgery or specialist injections to get patients living life to the full again.
Risk factors for hip problems
An estimated 25% of people are at risk of developing arthritis of the hip. Risk factors for developing the condition include:
- Abnormal hip joint
- History of high impact activity
- Low birth weight
Common hip surgeries
Targeted exercise and manual therapy can help some hip conditions. However, others require surgery.
Common hip surgeries include:
- Total Hip Replacement
- Partial Hip Replacement
- Hip Arthroscopy
- Total Hip Resurfacing
You can find out more about these surgeries and what’s involved by visiting our Patient Resource Centre.